Top 7 Investment Strategies for Medical Practices

Most dread the task of budgeting for the upcoming year. There is never enough money, and with the increase in regulations, it won’t change in the near future.

However, setting a budget and sticking to it is the most important step for ensuring financial viability. Regardless of the size of your practice, there are several areas in which physicians should invest.

1.   ICD-10 Education

The best way to reduce loss of revenue in ICD-10 is to provide training for your staff. According to a report published by the AMA, the practice expenses related to training could go over $3,400 per coder. This estimate does not include travel expenses, material costs and time involved.

2.   Compliance Plan

Practices that don’t have a large budget, often end up not developing a formal, written compliance plan. This puts them at risk for audits. If you don’t have enough money to hire a consultant, you can team up with physicians of similar size in your area and compile a list of vulnerabilities. After this, you can plan on addressing those vulnerabilities. Local hospitals are often willing to share their compliance plan. Use this to tailor your own plan and fit the needs. The OIG Work Plan, is another great resource on which practices can base their plans.

3.   Meaningful use:

However labour intensive Meaningful Use seems, it is worth it for practices to attest to it. After 2014, eligible professionals will not be able to receive incentive payment on participation. Beginning 2015, eligible professionals who haven’t demonstrated meaningful use, will be liable to payment reduction.

4.   Internal Audits

Implementing ICD-10 will mean that the physician practice would have to perform proactive audits regarding coding and documentation quality. The best way would be to work with a consultant. Some consultants also help make your practice more efficient, which will be important when ICD-10 is implemented as both coder and physician productivity are expected to decrease.

5.   Certified Coders

Some practices hire non-certified coders. These coders do not have the formal training or credentials to perform the coding. This practice will soon become out-dated as physicians undergo billing and documentation scrutiny by external auditors. You can either invest in a certified coder or provide formal training to your existing staff.

6.   Non-physician Practitioners:

With the increase in the number of patients due to the Affordable Care Act, investing in non-physician practitioner may be worthwhile.

7.   Marketing:

Marketing the practice has its own benefits. You can use a website or social media to establish a brand and highlight your areas of expertise.

The Financial Benefits of Population Health 2.0

Phil Suiter: The first generation in population health management had numerous programs that were immensely helpful. Though the idea was great, there was one thing about it that proved difficult – assessment of clinical and financial results. Now, the second generation of population health management is in the pipeline, let’s call it Population Health 2.0. It is driven by a strong network of providers and employers with integrated programs that are greatly improving community health, delivering financial results and Return Of Investment.

Population Health 2.0 is indispensable for hospitals and health systems that strive to achieve the dual mission: building healthier communities while strategically planning for the future. It has a strong focus on supporting employers with well-planned health and wellness initiatives that are help lower healthcare costs while boosting employee productivity.

It gives a better picture of community health. Since it works closely with employers, a provider can learn a lot about health needs of consumers in their areas who aren’t currently their patients. It can further help bring those consumers into their system. Countless companies have a significant number of employees without a primary care physician and are overdue for getting important health screenings that ensure a healthy life.

An employer-provider population health platform has a lot of information on relevant health risks. To ensure confidentiality, only the employer and the provider should have access to this information. But the employer should also have an overall view of the employee health trends and possess a financial analysis tool that helps identify the costs associated with health risks and the potential savings that can be achieved when the health of its employers improve.

The first round of Population Health was mainly used by health insurers and their partners. With the second version, the employers have the ability to directly partner with the providers and hence they do not lose access to key data when they change carriers. This data can also be used by providers to develop marketing campaigns that address the greatest health risks and at the same time build strategic service line growth.

The local hospital recognizes the unique needs of the employers in its area as they all are part of the same community. They also have an idea of an employer’s budgetary constraints and overall readiness for population health management. Some companies have just started implementing this, while others have already began screenings and seminars.

With the new technology platforms, it is easier than ever before to engage employees, manage incentive programs and measure their effectiveness. A web-based solution offers and employee a personalized component that includes tools and resources that are specially designed to support their health goals. Employees can check on their incentive status at the click of a button and also input required data like diet, water intake, etc. for a more comprehensive health assessment.

The primary phase of population health management was mainly about its principles and concepts. Measuring its effectiveness was a challenging task. Population Health 2.0 is all about reaching out into the community by using various tools of technology to understand progress and measure effectiveness.

This strategy helps at-risk populations become healthier by giving them better and easier access to providers in their area. Providers, on the other hand, gain insight into their communities and can more effectively strategize their plans. The employers are reaping benefits of lower healthcare costs with increased productivity and happier employees.

ICD-10 Likely to Move Ahead

After the congressional vote, the industry will get a clear picture of where things stand as ICD-10 will come into force, on October 1. Following are some key highlights from the latest ICD-10 news.

1.   No further delay:
Most people think that there will be no further delay on implementation of ICD-10. Over 60% of respondents in a recently conducted survey, say that the October deadline is unlikely to change. Even many senators agree with this.

2.   Preparedness:
A recent survey indicated that about 21% of practice are on track with preparations for ID-10 while another 23% say that they lack the resources to begin preparing.

3.   Testing:
81% of the submitted ICD-10 claims were accepted during the first ICD-10 end-to-end testing from 26th January through 3rdFebruary, 2015. The testing included nearly 15,000 claims. Providers, clearinghouses, and billing agencies were all a part of the testing. Overall, it seems that CMD is ready to accept ICD-10 claims. However, in a recent study, it was found that 84% of respondents did not conduct end-to-end testing as yet.

4.   The impact on revenue:
Revenue impact is obviously the biggest concern. Over, 60% are concerned about ICD-10’s impact on revenue and cash flow.

5.   Low cost to implement:
The cost of implementing ICD-10 is turning out to be much lower than previously estimated. The per provider expenditure, according to a survey, will be around $3,400.

The overall picture seem positive. The testing is moving forward, the cost of implementation is lower than the estimate and the deadline in likely to remain unchanged.

If you have been waiting be sure that ICD-10 will move ahead, it most likely is. It is time to go head and implement new software or services. The sooner this is done, the more time you will have to implement, train and test for ICD-10.

How mHealth Should Help Patients Control Their Health

The word mHealth refers to all mobile devices and applications that give an individual the ability to connect to the different constituencies in the healthcare system. The ability to transfer selected patient health attributes to provider networks is a very important component of the current mHealth solutions. This network comprises of physicians, nurse practitioners and case workers who use the information to identify red flags in patient behaviour which can prompt the providers to take steps to manage a potential medical issue before it worsens. This results in a huge improvement of patient health and decrease in costs.

Almost everyone has a cell phone. This means that the distribution channel is already present. Also, the cost of developing software programs is low. As a result, the cost of entry in mHealth is minimal which has led to a huge increase in the number of mHealth solutions. Countless studies have credited the technology and have proven its cost effectiveness. However, the market is still immature and hence it is difficult to produce reliable long-term estimates. One thing can be said with certainty, the technology has the potential to reduce administrative costs and the number of unnecessary clinical events. In a nutshell, the new technology is actually promising.

This technology is also the best thing to happen to the US healthcare system since the idea of electronic health records. Healthcare providers are expected to work together by coordinating healthcare delivery through accountable care organizations. The information is supposed to be easily shared through healthcare information exchanges. The list of its advantages is endless. But the challenges to success remain the same: Patient privacy, forbids information sharing across platforms and organizations.

Judging by the current scenario, mHealth is most like to suffer from the structural issues that challenge other healthcareinnovations, unless something is done to prevent it. As long as patients access care from multiple healthcare providers using different systems, their complete health information will never be connected. mHealth needs comprehensive connectivity to succeed.

There is a possible way to address the issue – change the conventional thinking. If mHealth solutions were created for the patient, and not the provider, things could be a lot better. Let us see an example to understand this better.

Consider a car. Now, imagine how a driver could benefit from having a mobile app tailored for the car. Suppose the data about the car would reside with the vehicle owner and not the service provider. The app could, for example, text the driver when the vehicle reaches a certain level of miles to indicate the need for an oil change.

Now, imagine that, before the service, the service centre’s records indicate the spark plugs of the car also need cleaning. Without the app, the driver might not be able to remember whether this additional work has been done by another service provider.

With the mobile app, however, the driver would be able to call up all the services completed on the vehicle and determine that the spark plugs were recently cleaned and hence avoid paying for a service which was not required.

Now, consider the implications of such an app to healthcare. If a patient’s health information was with the patient himself and not his various providers, things would be simpler. Such an app would give patients full control of their own information, while allowing providers to access that information when required.

Healthcare Transformation Is Driven by Local Factors

In a country with 50 different states and almost 10 times as many healthcare markets, every market is shaped uniquely according to the characteristics and conditions in the local area. Healthcare is undergoing a change in markets all over the country, but at varying rates.

Healthcare systems in the country are actively seeking to identify key factors that govern the change in market in order to assess where those markets are headed and how fast should the healthcare systems incorporate organizational changes to cope up with the change.

The factors involved are numerous, depending on the location of the market. Some examples of those factors include the level of organization among the providers, and product sophistication. There are also external factors at work, which include demand in the market, supply, pricing and the regulations imposed. Local demographics and economy are also among these factors.

Large cities like Atlanta and Denver are undergoing a rapid transformation. A common factor in these markets is a prevalence of vertical collaborations of physicians and hospitals, hospitals and payers and payers and physicians.

The Atlanta market has become more competitive and dynamic at a very quick pace. The main reason behind this is that there are several health systems that are working closely with payers to move toward value-based contracts.

Even in Chicago, vertical collaborations have been the key element behind the healthcare transformation. However, the change is not as fast as Atlanta’s. Healthcare providers in Chicago have been actively partnering with payers and other providers to change from a large free-for-service based structure to one based on shared savings and risk arrangements. These arrangements have shown a positive result on use-rates in the market.

In California, the scenario is somewhat different. The key driver of transformation in the state is nothing but the state’s own sophisticated insurance market. Insurers in the state have been able to offer products and reference pricing that appeal to employers. Insurers are also collaborating with hospitals and health systems which enable them to compete on a price with major integrated delivery networks.

The different factors that drive the change reflect the various approaches to healthcare reform around the country. Although some factors will always remain common everywhere, the best way to develop the most appropriate strategies would be to focus on identifying and understanding the unique local forces at work in their communities.

3 Ways to Contain Costs before ICD-10

Managing expenses and cost-cutting, are two vital arts for any business. With the ICD-10 on its way, things could be difficult. Just setting aside reserves are getting credit, wouldn’t be enough. There will be additional expenses after the arrival of ICD-10, not to mention losses in revenue for up to 3 months. It is time for you to assess your business and come up with ways to cope up with that.

Following are some ways which can help you achieve just that.

1.   Reduce Utilities:
Electricity, internet, phones, etc. are essential to any business. However, these also end up being the most expensive. The utility companies have different tariffs and offers. Watch for those and try reducing these expenses.

2.   Contracts and Leases:

Annually reviewing all vendor contracts and leases is a great practice. It will help you get competitive quotes from at least 2 or 3 vendors. Apart from this, you could also try and reduce office overheads. Reducing use of printers and copiers is a great example.

3.   Automating or Outsourcing:
If you’re managing your practice, billing, and performing clinical tasks, automating these would be of great help. Outsourcing is also an option. Using a medical billing service works out to be less expensive than having your own billing staff. Not to mention, it can it will improve your overall collections.

You might have noticed that staffing costs have not been included above. This is the largest expense. However, with regard to ICD-10, staffing has some special considerations. This is certainly not the time to hand out bonuses or raises. Wait until after January 2016 to look at that. On the other hand, staff cutbacks are also not feasible. You will need the resources to manage and smoothen the transition. Even if you implement new technology, wait until 2016 for things to settle down, before making staff changes.

Drones – The Future of Medical Transport?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also called drones, are not science fiction anymore. UAVs are extensively used in countless fields. Currently, it’s the retailers that are exploring the applications of UAVs. They hope to use the technology to deliver packages at record speed. However, there is another field which could immensely benefit from UAVs – medicine.

In a nutshell, drones are small aircrafts that can be remotely controlled or preprogramed to fly specific routes. They are often powered by Lithium batteries and are fitted with sensors that use GPS to find their path. Drones can be configured to carry a small payload along with cameras and communication devices. They have a range of up to 60 miles.

Drones have been used before in Haiti to deliver aid packages after the earthquake in 2010. Since drones fly, traffic is minimal and hence they reach their destination faster. For example, the average road speed in Bhutan is about 10 miles an hour. If drones are used, supplies and medication can reach their destinations much faster.

Currently, engineers are working on ambulance drones. An ambulance drone carries advanced life support devices that even a common man can use, including an Automated External Defibrillator. Once the drone lands near the patient in need of care, the operator of the drone can communicate through a two way radio or video device and talk individuals through the use of AED and other equipment.

Another great option for such drones in transporting blood products. Hospitals with surplus blood can immediately supply it to any place with requirement.
As seen in Haiti, drones can be of great use in case of disaster situations. They can transport essential supply to disaster sites keeping individuals alive and healthy for long periods of time. This could be of immense help when roads to the site are damaged or airports shut down, not to mention places that are geographically difficult to reach.

People residing in remote areas need to wait very long for medical care. Hikers, hunters, sailors, etc. may need to wait several days before they receive assistance. Drones could easily fly to these areas and deliver necessary first aid.

Medical drones have yet to be tested in the USA. The current regulations require the drone operator to hold a commercial pilot’s license, fly the aircraft only during the daytime and maintain visual contact with drones at all times. Also, operators are not allowed to fly drones above 400 feet.

Thankfully, FAA are planning to slowly integrate drones into the National Airspace System in 2015. Suggestions have been made to include an independent certification process that would allow for a drone operator license and a dedicated air zone for drones of up to 700 feet.

As with every new concept, there are certain inherent risks that need to be figured out. For example, what should be done if the blood being transported is somehow lost or damaged in transit? What if the drone itself is somehow damaged and unable to reach its destination? And the main question, what if the drone reaches the wrong place or gets intercepted.

Another question that arises is the crowded airspace. Given the numerous applications of the drone, chances are, there could be hundreds of other drones operating in the same airspace. Each and every one of them trying to deliver something important. This may result in mid-air collision or slower transport time.

Though the advantages of drones far outweigh the risks. As soon as the FFA loosen their regulations and show drones the green flag, we could be one step closer to providing urgent medical care.

The One Secret You Should Tell Employees

Everyone likes to win. Be it business or sports. Winning is a unique and exhilarating feeling. It gives us an exciting sense of accomplishment, knowing that we performed excellently based on our expectations.

However, victories are scarce in organizations these days. Achieving excellence is one of the basic instincts of adult humans. Still, at the workplaces, victories are seldom clearly and consistently articulated. We will explore the reasons behind this.

The Daily Chaos.

Workplaces these days are chaotic. Constant interruptions of phones, emails, texts, etc. Meetings are poorly managed and oft times end up going nowhere. We have more on our plates than anyone could attempt to handle. These factors are so embedded in our lives that we cannot see past them and we easily overlook the negative impact they have on our focus and productivity.

You’d probably think that multitasking could prove to be a remedy of this cluster that is our work life. But that would be wrong. Multitasking makes us lose focus. The key to successfully managing this chaos is to slow down, take a look around and see what winning looks like. Having a clearer picture about winning would provide us with important guidelines for measuring our time spent. And of course, spending the correct amount of time is the precise way to bring order amidst this chaos.

Same old, Same old.

Our brain is hardwired to take shortcuts for mundane tasks so it can allot more brain-power to demanding tasks and challenges. Our brain goes on autopilot for activities like getting ready and driving to work. This somehow makes its way to the workplace. Consequently, even at work, we start doing things like the same old way we have been doing them, regardless of the reasons behind doing those activities that way which are now invalid.

These auto pilot activities are what we call habits. Habits could be beneficial if we focus on building the right ones. For example, if we start our day by taking a few minutes to plan our activities and then identify the places we need to focus on in order to win, we could increase our performance at work significantly. New ideas should be actively thought of and good ones should be pursued. Regular feedback should be provided to all employees to keep them oriented with the company goal. All this will take a bit of practice, but it is possible to implement such habits.

Too many thoughts

We spent quite some time thinking about and planning on how to win. So much so, that we forget to catchup the rest of the organization on our thinking. We assume that everyone thinks alike.

We assume that winning exists. We do not communicate how or where we want to go. Instead, we assume that everyone on board knows it. These assumptions are what make winning difficult.

To avoid all this unproductive thinking, a formal system has to be established. There should at least one day in a month where you communicate your vision of winning to your employees and ask them for their feedback to make sure they have understood exactly what you want. There should be a system that reminds managers to discuss the goals and planning involved on a regular basis. Always keep talking about the target and never stop communicating what winning looks like.

The Secret to communicate winning

Firstly, describe your finish line. Everyone involved should have the clear picture of the place you want the organization to reach. For example, instead of saying, “I’d like to go to Europe” say, “I’d like to go to France.” Then describe what the destination will look like and what will you do when you reach. The key is in vivid detail. The more, the better.

Secondly, everyone has their own definitions of abstract terms. For example, if you ask 10 random people to define happiness, you will get at least 8 different answers. It is all about how a certain individual thinks. So, to effectively communicate what exactly you want, use very specific words. Describe precisely what you want so that there is little room of misinterpretation.

Thirdly, share your thinking process. Let the team know what prompted you to decide that particular target. The data you have should be shared and described. Then ask the team to draw their own conclusions from the data and then ask them for the best course of action. This will ensure equal participation from all members.

And finally, get feedback. Ask the team what they understood. Then, ask them what winning means to them and how your picture will impact their jobs. Set aside some time for questions and encourage them to clear all doubts. Your vision should be clear. Everyone in the organization should be able to understand and specify your vision as perfectly as you.

The secret to winning is to not have any secrets. Constantly bring your vision of winning to everyone in the organization. Be honest and open about everything and your chances of winning would greatly increase.

Spontaneity beats structure in innovation

A 2012 study concluded that organizations with formal innovation structures perform better than ones that manage their innovation on unplanned basis.

A recent study that surveyed C-level executives or below who worked on new product development projects in their organizations found that in reality, the opposite is true. In the survey, participants were asked to describe the structure of innovation within their company and their company’s typical new product success rate. On comparing this innovation structure to the structure of top performing companies and average performing companies, there was little difference.

Innovators of the top performing organizations worked the same way as the average performers. The revenue size had little or no effect in innovation success. Actually, the top performers were from companies with less annual revenues.

From this, we can conclude that size and structure has no effect in determining innovation outcomes. So the question now is, what does? For this, they compared the top performing companies with the ones at the bottom and found 4 key characteristics.

1.   Effective Collaboration

High success rate in new product successes were directly liked to effective cross functional collaboration. Cross functional collaboration has more to it than just marketing and market research. While trying to find out specific reasons behind this, it was seen that top-performing organizations are more likely to involve sales and trade. Their sales and trade teams where involved in the process right from the beginning stages, unlike their counterparts which involved the team at the end stages of the innovation process.

2.   Risk Tolerance

It was found that organizations with the highest rates of new product success were more likely to have environments the promoted and rewarded creative risk taking. This ensured that they’re highly effective at having a level of radical thinking that is essential for consistent innovation.

3.   Research Driven

It is seen that top performing organizations effectively understand consumer needs by conducting research and analyzing found data. Companies with highest rates of new product success rates were 35% more likely to provide their employees with key insights for proper understanding of consumer needs. However, what was even better was that those companies used their data and insights to assess their own product ideas against those of their competitor. They also compared strengths and weaknesses which helped them find different propositions for their products. Top performing organizations were found to be 28% more likely to assess their ideas against the competitors.

4.   Supportive Culture

Along with more resources, top performing companies gave their employees more “emotional” resources in terms of guidance, support and running room. It was found that these companies were unlikely to burden their innovators with internal politics. Contrary, these organizations ensured that all skills and talents of innovators are put to use. This resulted in soaring employee morale, which is highly coveted in any organization. In comparison to the lowest performing companies, innovators at top performers were 1.3 times more likely to be satisfied with the utilization of their talents. They were also 2.9 times more like to find their leadership more supportive and encouraging, and 3 times less likely to consider leaving the organization for better prospects.

This certainly doesn’t mean that the leaders should stop trying to instill formal processes and systems around innovation. What it means is that the systems are of little value unless they promote specific organizational behaviors and help in setting the right norms. A leader should focus on the behaviors that matter. A leader’s main priority should be to get his team to coordinate more extensively across the organization which gives them access to better insights and result in more innovative ideas. Risk taking should be encouraged and people should be given enough room to use their full talents.

Name: 9 Ways Medicine Makes Use Of Social Media

Facebook, the popular social media portal has more than 1.3 billion users. Twitter, the microblogging website has a count of 900 million, every second, about an hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. Social networking has brought a paradigm shift in the ways we connect to our peers.

Healthcare can utilize this immensely diverse platform to reach new heights. However, the health sector has just started doing so. The prime reason for this is the numerous regulations that a health care provider has to follow. But rest assured, there are some truly great minds putting this medium to good use for the benefit of everyone involved in healthcare.

Here are 9 examples of healthcare utilizing social networks:

1.   The doors of Operating Rooms are now open to the world

With the popularity of live streaming, hospitals broadcast surgical procedures through social media. Recently, The Swedish Medical Centre in Washington State streamed a live broadcast of a cochlear implant surgery followed by a video of the patient listening to music for the first time. Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas streamed a delivery of a 6 pound baby via cesarean section live from the Operating Room on Twitter. The doctors behind the World Vasectomy Day broadcasted 25 vasectomy procedures live along with interviews and short documentaries to reduce the fear of the procedure. There are countless other examples where social media has been utilized in a similar manner.

2.   Outsourcing Tough Medical Diagnoses.

The average user of CrowdMed, a website, has been sick for about 8 years, spent more than $50,000 on medical expenses and still has no diagnosis for their illness. The website helps patients reach a network of healthcare professionals and medical students in over 20 countries.

One patient found a diagnosis and cure in just two weeks of signing up. The patient presented with a painful swelling condition that had kept her bedridden for almost 20 years. The possibilities are endless. And it is also not burdensome to physicians. An average medical professional of CrowdMed, spends about 11 hours a month solving medical cases on the network.

3.   Raising Money for Clinical Research

When a 4 year old girl was diagnosed with a rare pediatric disease, her parents turned to social media. They have now raised more than $2 million from 30,000 donors for the research of the cure for this rare disease.

Another example is the ALS Bucket Challenge that was recently all over the social media and raised $115 million in a few months, which goes to prove how potent and useful the social media platform can be for raising funds and spreading awareness.

4.   Using #FOMO for Public Health

A study found that social media conversations could perhaps triple the request rate for at-home HIV tests in high risk zones. The researchers are now going one step further by focusing on expanding the findings of the study to combat depression, bullying and substance abuse.

The reason social media has a huge potential is not because of the platform itself, but because almost everybody uses it.

5.   Using Social Media Data for Life-Saving Trends

The amount of data in social media websites is perhaps a gold mine for medical researchers. For example, a research found that angry tweets could directly predict fatal cardiac diseases. The study found that the model based on Twitter language could predict heart disease significantly better than a model combined with 10 common heart disease risk factors that included smoking, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Real-time map tracking for international awareness of Ebola was done through tweets. Even though the potential for social media in medical research is immense, there are emerging debates about the ethics and accuracy of using the data.

6.   Directly Contacting Candidates for Clinical Trials

It is estimated that 30% of work done in a clinical trial is on patient recruiting. Also, difficulty finding patients is the top reason for delays in clinical research. However, this is about to change. One study found that 84% of patients for two recent pediatric rare disease trials were referred to via social media. There is a patient social network – PatientsLikeMe. This social network has a tool that automatically matches members to over 40,000 clinical trial opportunities. Such methods of patient recruiting are not only quick but quite cost effective.

7.   Getting the Doctors to Social Media

When the social media was in its initial phase, the strict privacy restrictions made it difficult for medical professionals. But this is rapidly changing. Professional networks like Sermo and Figure 1 have created a physician-only social space. Such networks are quickly gaining popularity.

8.   Donating Organs

Facebook included a single organ donation question to their timeline, over 50,000 people said that they were willing to be donors. Over 10,000 people officially registered in their state registry in just one day. This is more than 21 times the normal registration rate.

9.   Disease Awareness

In Netherlands, health advocates photoshopped people into pictures of events that they had never attended. Then they tagged them on Facebook. A follow-up message said, “Confused? You are now experiencing what it is like to have Alzheimer’s disease.”

The above mentioned examples are all quite recent, which points to the fact that this combination of social media and medicine is still in its early phase. Despite concerns about privacy and other such factors, fresh new ways are being found to make the most of social networks.