Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting Paid in 2018: Ways to Optimize Time in Medical Practices

Physicians may feel they are working at high speed, but looking at what they are actually doing minute to minute reveals important details. A small study found that during the office day, physicians spent 27% of their time in direct clinical encounters with patients and 49.2% of their time on tending to the electronic health record and desk work1—an indication that there is plenty of room for more support from administrative staff to address many tasks that do not require licensure.



Physicians spend 27% of their time in direct clinical encounters with patients and 49.2% of their time on tending to the electronic health record and desk work.

Below are some ways to optimize the efficiency of staff which, in turn, will allow physicians and other providers to spend more meaningful time on billable activities.


Develop Checklists


Leave nothing to chance. Create simple checklists for each function— from the beginning of the day and throughout the day — including the duties and tasks for nurses, medical assistants and receptionists. This creates value even for routine tasks. For many functions, a checklist can serve as both a statement of expectations and a handy reminder tool.2


Delegate Appropriately


Increase the amount of time that physicians and other providers have to spend with patients by reducing the time they need to devote to tasks that don’t require their involvement. As appropriate, it is important that everyone on staff works to the top of their license, certification, expertise and/or skills. Some practices find that hiring a scribe can boost physician productivity and satisfaction. Typically, a scribe position can pay for itself if it allows an additional two patients to be accommodated each day.

47 work weeks, $100 reimbursement per encounter, 4-work days in the office per week, 2 patient encounters per day, equates to $37,600 in additional revenue. Because costs are nearly 100% fixed (i.e., they do not proportionately increase based on additional patient encounters), this equates to $32,000 to $35,000 in contribution to the position of a scribe. These data are provided as samples only.


Allow Flexibility


Business office hours don’t have to mirror those of the clinical operation. Many employees will leap at the opportunity to work earlier or later hours than the clinicians. Open the door to flex time and regular part-time shifts that can be scheduled around child-care duties and other personal obligations.


Flexibility may be an independent practice’s secret weapon to attracting and retaining great employees.

Amid the ongoing consolidation and centralization of healthcare services, the independent practice has a secret weapon: the quality of its staff. That said, one cannot just expect a fine-tuned team of high-performing employees to just come about. To stand out in a competitive market and create the practice that patients choose, high-performing practices put the time in to train staff and provide them with the technological solutions they need to succeed.

Independent practices have innate qualities that allow them to handle the challenges of today’s changing reimbursement environment—but only if they are willing to invest time and thought into new revenue opportunities, improving how they collect payments owed by patients, implementing strategies to avoid and manage denials, and deploying staff and technology solutions for optimal efficiency. In order to maximize payments in 2018 – and beyond - independent practices must be alert enough to recognize the changing currents and nimble enough to successfully execute new strategies to stay on top of the revenue cycle.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

FTC sues dental supply companies over consumer protection law violations

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] announced [press release] Monday that it has filed a complaint against the three biggest dental supply companies, "alleging that they violated U.S. antitrust laws by conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to or otherwise serve buying groups representing dental practitioners."


The dental supply companies, Benco, Henry Schein and Patterson, are full-service dental distributors, supplying a range of equipment from gloves and cement to dental chairs and lights. The complaint accuses the companies of participating in an agreement "to deprived independent dentists of the benefits of participating in buying groups that purchase dental supplies from national, full-service distributors." Essentially, the distributors agreed to refuse to compete and offer discounts to buying groups, thus greatly disadvantaging solo and small groups of dentists.


The FTC charges the companies of violating Section 5 of the FTC Act [text], which prohibits unfair methods of competition. Benco is also charged with "invitation to collude" under Section 5 because the company is believed to have invited a fourth distributor to join the agreement. As of now, the administrative trial is set for October.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Germany court rules Facebook personal data usage illegal

A German consumer group said [press release, in German] Monday that the Berlin Regional Court [official website, in German] ruled [judgment, PDF, in German] that Facebook's use of personal data was illegal because it did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users.


The Federation of German Consumers Organisation(vzbv) [advocacy website], which brought the suit, stated that Facebook's default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law by denying consumers of a "meaningful choice." The Federal Data Protection Act [text, PDF] permits personal information to be recorded and used by a company only with explicit agreement from the individual.


According to Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer, "Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register." The main issues brought were regarding how it tracks which sites sites its users access; its app, which had a pre-activated service that revealed an user's location to the person they chatted with; and default settings permitted search engines to link to the user's timeline making it easier to find an user's profile.


In accordance, the court found that the default settings were invalid as declarations of consent and eight clauses in the terms of service were declared invalid, such as the terms allowing Facebook to transmit data to the US and use personal data for commercial purposes and the "authentic name" policy which required users to use their real names. Additionally, the court held that Facebook needed to obtain explicit consent from its members before using their names and profile pictures in com mercialand sponsored materials.


Facebook plans to appeal, stating that it has made significant changes to its terms of service and data protection guidelines since the case was originally brought, and will be in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation [text], which provides significant changes [text] in privacy laws.


vzbv also plans to appeal to the Berlin Court of Appeal [official website] on claims that were rejected.


Facebook in the past has faced various complications with its services and privacy concerns in Germany. In 2016, the Dusseldorf district court [official website, in German] ruled against the use of Facebook's "like" button on an online shopping site, finding that consent from customers is required before transmission of their identities to Facebook. That same year, a federal court ruled that Facebook's "friend finder" feature constituted as advertising harassment.



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Friday, February 9, 2018

Google faces class action lawsuit over new Pixel smartphone

Google is being sued in a class action lawsuit[text, PDF] filed Tuesday over alleged defects in the new Pixel smartphone. Plaintiffs claim that Google knowingly sold Pixel phones with defective microphones preventing phone call usage and other voice recognition functions.


Google support agents conducted an investigation into the matter and acknowledged the defect with microphones. However, agents claim that the defect occurred in only 1 percent of products sold and assured its customers that they would be addressing the issue immediately.


In addition, representatives posted on the customer service forums [website], and suggested that the defect was caused by "a hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec." However, the only option given to customers was to have their phones replaced under warranty.


Customers who sought replacements under warranty were instructed to reach out to their service provider if their warranty expired. The complaint alleges that even after individuals received their replacements, the defect persisted. Not to mention the majority of plaintiffs in the class action were no longer covered under their original warranty due to the intermittent nature of the flaw.


The plaintiffs further allege that Google was not only aware of the defect but continued to sell without proper notification. The complaint states that, "Despite receiving hundreds of complaints shortly after launch; and admitting the phones have a faulty microphone, Google continues to sell the Pixel phones without telling purchasers about the microphone defect."


Girard Gibbs LLP [official, website], the law firm bringing the suit against Google for microphone defects, is also investigating a potential claim [press release] regarding the Google Pixel 2 XL alleging a screen malfunction where "the display remains visible even after changing the screen to display something else, degrading user experience."

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