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If Medical Professionals Are Super Heroes, Invisibility Shouldn’t Be Their Super Power

I recently attended a webinar on maximizing visibility with social media. At first, I thought no way. Certainly, all of the healthcare providers and physicians that I have spoken to over the last 6 weeks have been consumed with thoughts of how to just get through the COVID-19 pandemic. They really aren’t thinking of practice development. They are thinking of business survival. They, like all of us, are hoping this will be over sooner rather than later.

But maybe it’s best to consider where there are opportunities in this down time. For most private practices’ things are definitely slower. There are less patients to be seen; no elective surgeries; and less paperwork.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in shelter in place orders so your patients are at home.  And right now, more than ever, they are online consuming mor information than ever before.  So now is not the time to become invisible and hope for the best. Now is the time to be in front of your target market. You want to reach out to both current and potential patients with valuable information that they can trust. There is so much misinformation out there that you become the trusted source of information. They won’t forget. Set your practice up for success in the second half of 2020.

There is no better digital marketing tool than Social Media. You can stay engaged with your patient population in so many ways. Perhaps, schedule an online Q&A session where they can ask you questions in real time. This should be scheduled on the same day and at the same time so that people will know where to go and can also encourage their friends and family to join in.  Let your patients know that you are eager to return to the clinic. Don’t let them worry that you won’t be there when they need you.

Telemedicine is also a way to stay engaged with your patients. Certainly, it is a patient care option, but it is also a way to interact with your patients. If you haven’t implemented telemedicine contact your billing company or software representative to learn more about it.

Develop a plan now to contact those patients that had to cancel their appointments. Are there services that your practice can offer to get others to come back as soon as you are allowed to return to work? People are also eager for some positive news so sharing new plans for your practice or new services makes people hopeful for things to come. You might even consider temporarily offering extended hours of operation.

Staying visible is a process, one step at a time. Don’t become overwhelmed trying to think of everything at once. The Facebook Business Resource Hub offers 5 steps you can take today.  Query your staff, friends and family for ideas – think outside of the box!

Locum Tenens and Your Practice

locum tenens

Recently one of our clients asked us if they could use locum tenens while they were on vacation.  As summertime approaches, this question may be on everyone’s mind, so it seems like a good time to review acceptable and unacceptable uses of a locum tenens.  After all you don’t want to arrange for coverage of your practice and then not get reimbursed for the services rendered.

For Medicare eligibility and reimbursement, specific criteria must be met for a legitimate locum tenens, or fee-for-time compensation arrangement:

  • The substitute provider can only bill under the regular provider’s National Provider Identifier, or NPI, number for 60 continuous calendar days, unless the regular physician was called to active military duty.
  • The patients must seek the services of the regular physician.
  • Claims submitted to Medicare must use the modifier “Q6,” to indicate the use of a locum tenens.
  • The substitute physician must not be an employee, but an independent contractor.
  • The substitute physician must be paid on a per diem or similar time basis.

What Are Acceptable Uses of a Locum Tenens?

Examples of acceptable uses for a fee-for-time compensation arrangement include the following scenarios:

  • A physician takes a leave or goes on vacation. During that time, another physician sees that physician’s patients. Those visits can be billed to Medicare under the regular physician’s name, and Medicare will reimburse the regular physician as if she performed the services.
  • A physician terminates from the group. While the group tries to recruit a replacement, a substitute physician covers that physician’s caseload for up to 60 days.
  • Two locum tenens providers cover the panel of a physician on leave for 60 days, alternating the weeks they work.

What Are Unacceptable Uses of a Locum Tenens?

For Medicare purposes, the following are unacceptable uses of a fee-for-time compensation arrangement:

  • If a physician dies, no one can bill under that physician’s name.
  • Locum tenens arrangements for Medicare do not include nurse practitioners, physician assistants or any other provider type besides physician and physical therapist (in certain geographies or region). However, they do not need to be of the same specialty.
  • A newly hired physician cannot bill as a locum tenens provider while pending Medicare enrollment; employees do not qualify.
  • You are expanding your practice and need additional providers. A fee-for-time arrangement would not qualify, since there is no regular physician to substitute for.
  • The regular physician cannot provide services elsewhere while a substitute physician also is billing under her credentials; the regular physician cannot be available to work.

The above rules apply to the Medicare program. Different insurance plans can have their own rules regarding the allowed use of a substitute physician, but most will follow Medicare.  However, it is always a good thing to check with each carrier.

Electronic Statements Increase Prompt Payments

Once you start using electronic statements (eStatements) you’ll wonder why you ever billed any other way.

SAVE TIME AND BOOST YOUR BOTTOM LINE

Patient portals and electronic patient communications, including electronic statements, are key to getting your money faster. High-deductible health plans have made electronic statements increasingly important. The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) conducted a study to determine how patients felt about electronic statements. The results were interesting and definitely worth considering.

According to the HFMA study, an estimated 36% of people who currently receive patient statements in paper form would convert to electronic statements if the option were available.

THE PATIENT ADVANTAGE

Security of delivery, multiple payment methods, and the ability to pay directly from an electronic bill were the most appealing aspects of electronic statements.

Sixty-five percent of those who currently receive paper statements said they would pay an electronic statement faster than a paper statement. Below are just a few comments received:

  • “It’s easier and more convenient to pay. No hassle with checks or stamps and no going to the post office.”
  • “I’m on my computer a lot. So, it’d be easy to just log on to my email account and see it right there and then pay it.”
  • “I would pay it as soon as I read the email unlike paper bills that I tend to wait a while before mailing it back.”

THE PROVIDER ADVANTAGE

Reduced days in accounts receivable and collecting patient payments faster top the list of reasons why it is advantageous for providers to offer electronic statements. Additional cost savings come from a reduction in material costs, a decrease in postage fees, and the fact that the patients receive electronic statements in less time than paper statements, because there is no time lost in the mail. In a nutshell, it is simple – electronic statements result in faster payments and serve as another way to connect patients to the practice.

THE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

The Pew Research Center claims one-in-four people surveyed said they would consider switching doctors for the option of having their statements delivered electronically. Could this ignite a change in behavior? It is something worth exploring.

IT WORKS!

With the approval of some of our clients, Onpoint Medical Solutions implemented electronic statements at their practice. So, we know it works! As soon as we sent the electronic statements patients started paying. It happened within minutes! Some called to get more information but once the call was fielded it resulted in a payment.

Start electronic statements today and set your practice apart, reduce the cost of postage and get your payments faster.

 

Billing and Collections is a Team Effort!

Rub employees the right wayIf you want your billing and collections to be as smooth and effective as possible, it must be a team effort.  It can’t be up to just a couple of people and it definitely can’t be a blame game.

Practices are overwhelmed with phone calls, paperwork, pre-authorizations, and patient care.  Sometimes the ‘paper’ things can fall through the cracks.  It is these things that end up snowballing and result in more work, frantic calls and denied claims.

Here are some tips that will help smooth out the process.  They may seem insignificant or deemed to be more trouble than they are worth.  But, in the long run, if everyone on the team does their part, it means less clean-up work, less stress, and faster payments.

The collection process starts BEFORE the patient shows up for their appointment.

  1. If the patient is new to the practice send a welcome packet with all of the paperwork that they need to complete.  Sending it before the appointment helps to ensure they will have all of the correct information.
  2. If they are established patients then remind them to bring their current insurance card.
  3. On the day of the visit, ask to see a copy of the patient’s insurance card.  Too many times this step is either omitted or the staff will just ask if anything has changed.  Most patients will automatically say no simply because they don’t remember.  Insurance plans change more frequently these days, so it is best to verify and update all information at every visit.
  4. Make sure that the name on the insurance card matches exactly to what is entered in your practice management system.  Mis-spellings, missing middle initials, and typographical errors will all result in denied claims.
  5. Collect all outstanding patient balances before the patient goes into the exam room.
  6. Make it as easy as possible for patients to pay their deductibles, copay or self-pay payments.  Allow payments via credit cards, patient portals, mobile devices, and paper checks.
  7. Train select employees to set up payment plans for those patients that can’t pay their portion of the bill in full.  Make sure your back office or billing company knows of these payment plans so they can track compliance.
  8. The billing staff or company can’t bill and collect if charges aren’t submitted.  Make sure that charges are submitted daily.  There should be a check and balance to ensure that a charge was submitted for every patient that had an appointment that day.
  9. Make sure that coding is accurate.  Do you have the correct modifier?  Are the number of units correct?
  10. Make sure the pre-authorization/referral matches the service and the date of service exactly.  Make sure the information is noted on the claim.

When everyone on the team takes their part of the billing and collection process seriously things will go much smoother.  The practice will see an increase in revenue and the staff won’t struggle with clean-up work.  That is a win for everyone.

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