Most medical practices have permitted key business partners to access critical IT systems remotely. This is usually done to provide fast and efficient support of these systems. It could be an EMR vendor that needs to access a database, or perhaps a third-party IT service provider that will access systems for updates. Regardless of the requirement, every form of remote access that is provided to an outside party is a potential risk.
It’s great to see the continued momentum in the state’s quest to get all Alabamian’s vaccinated. As COVID-19 vaccine availability expands to include more age groups, providers are naturally going to get more questions about the vaccine, potential side effects, interactions, etc. The Risk Consultants at Inspirien Insurance Company have compiled a list of 10 frequently asked questions regarding the vaccine to expedite clinical visits and support clinicians in their quest to combat COVID-19. These FAQ’s were obtained from evidenced based sites such as the CDC, The American Medical Association, and The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to Dr. Carlos del Rio, a Global Health Expert at Emory University “there is no contraindication in my mind to take the COVID-19 vaccine.” Dr. Rio goes on to note that clinical trials did not include those individuals in an immune-compromised state, so the efficacy of the vaccine is still unknown and may not be the same as an individual who is not in an immuno-compromised state. Patients are advised to not take the vaccination if they have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine or any component of the vaccine.
It took a trip to a textile store… yes, a textile store. It was late 1940s, and Michael DeBakey (who would later become the most innovative and most distinguished cardiovascular surgeon in the world) was thinking how to address a major clinical need for a deadly disease – ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Albert Einstein just died of one, with echoes of his sudden death reverberating in the world and in the medical community. Einstein consulted doctors, including DeBakey, but no treatment options existed at that time.
Patients and friends often ask me if the pain in their hand could be from carpal tunnel syndrome. I find that, while many people have heard of carpal tunnel or have known someone who has dealt with it, there is a lot of misinformation about the condition and how it is best treated.
It is the most complex cardiothoracic surgery performed in newborns, one in which surgeons literally construct a new, larger aorta for babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Called the Norwood procedure, it must be done within the infant’s first week of life, followed by a second surgery when the baby is three to six months, and a third at age four or five.
The journey toward mental health parity began in 1961, when President Kennedy directed the Civil Service Commission (now known as the Office of Personnel Management) to implement mental health parity. The Strengthening Behavioral Health Parity Act (“SBHPA”), which was signed into law on December 27, 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, represents a major milestone in that journey by adding ERISA plans to the plans that are covered by the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and by working to achieve parity in physical and mental health care management processes.
The Food Allergy Treatment Center is offering continuing education through the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. This continuing education virtual webinar is designed to provide physicians and other health care staff with a practical and timely overview of the important developments in food allergy and treatment options. The course will cover a review of food allergy diagnosis, management, including anaphylaxis management, and available treatment options. Adequate time after each session will permit time for questions and discussion. This educational activity is designed for those who evaluate, diagnose, and manage patients with food allergies.
It has been a difficult 2020 with the ongoing presence of COVID 19 exhausting frontline healthcare entities and stalling the outpatient services. The pandemic has been a devastating historical event, but it has brought sweeping changes for 2021.
State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Awareness Week occurs annually around the week of Thanksgiving and is intended to increase awareness about GERD and its potential health risks when left undiagnosed or untreated, potential adverse effects of long-term proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication use, and the links between chronic heartburn and adenocarcinoma, the most common type of esophageal cancer in the U.S.
Many practices are currently leveraging Microsoft Office 365 for e-mail, file storage, and internal collaboration. Unsurprisingly, the number of threats targeting this information (phishing attacks, compromised credentials, etc.) continues to grow at a rapid rate.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $20 billion in new funding for providers related to the coronavirus pandemic. Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments are eligible to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020 will also be allowed to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments.
Throughout training, physicians are taught how to prescribe medications. How does the medication work within the body? Which patients will benefit? What is the appropriate dose? What are the side effects? The cost? We spend years honing our expertise on how to prescribe medications safely and correctly. Great care is taken to prescribe the best medication for each situation in each patient. We become comfortable prescribing medications early in training. Over the course of a patient’s lifetime, the number of these medications can build, leading to polypharmacy.
September is Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Awareness Month, which reminds us that even in the midst of the pandemic, cardiovascular and other diseases progress unabated. As a result, we welcome this opportunity to review some of the important approved developments in AF therapeutics and assess their validity when subjected to scientific scrutiny.
September is National Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Awareness Month. This year’s observance comes as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its effects, and we are fortunate that our pediatric hematology-oncology patients have not been severely impacted. Two of our faculty members, Julie Wolfson, MD, MSHS and Emily Johnston, MD, MS are involved in a national research effort to collect information on pediatric cancer patients infected with the virus.
The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into all of our day to day routines, including going to work, taking our children to school, running household errands, exercising, and even going to see our doctors or dentists.
Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) for food allergies is a life changing medical treatment that re-trains the immune system to become desensitized to food allergens through regular ingestion of food proteins at increasing doses. Alabama Allergy's Food Allergy Treatment Center provides OIT to patients who are at risk for anaphylactic reactions to peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, sesame seed, and wheat. This treatment is guided by Sunena Argo, MD Board Certified Allergist and Erin Cuzzort, CRNP.
When Children’s of Alabama performed its Community Needs Assessments in 2013, 2016 and 2019, mental and behavioral health were found to be among the top priorities for pediatric health.
Over the past few years, you may have heard about companies, app makers, and service providers launching two-factor verification or two-factor authentication.
Alabama’s hospitals are grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and State Health officer Scott Harris, MD for their leadership today in announcing a statewide mask order. We appreciate our state’s leaders for highlighting the importance of the mask ordinance in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Pediatric office visits have declined by half during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only are children missing well-child checks, but also the vaccines that are given during these visits. Manufacturers are reporting a decline in vaccine orders and vaccine doses distributed through the Vaccines for Children program.
In this day and age of advanced technology, physicians have access to abundant clinical information at their fingertips. Electronic medical record (EMR) systems can provide physicians with the data they need to care for their patients at virtually any time or place (whether or not these systems are user-friendly is another story).
As the Baby Boomers retire and Millennials join the workforce, managers find themselves with a new challenge in engaging the staff. The baby boomers did not mind following strict rules, nor did they require a daily pat on the back. However, most employees need more than just a task list. They want to feel valued, informed and engaged. Physician leaders and administrators can engage the staff more effectively if they are modeling a positive culture based on a mission statement, values and communicating goals.
Approximately every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke and roughly every four minutes someone dies of a stroke. It causes about one in 20 deaths annually – making it the fifth-leading cause of death – and the primary reason for long-term disability. Moreover, Alabama has the second-highest stroke mortality rate in the United States, behind Mississippi, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This high incidence of stroke has earned Alabama a spot in the stroke belt, dubbed so by the medical community.
This is not business as usual, and it is a great time of uncertainty. We are faced with one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime and your services are more critical than ever.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the coronavirus. Although researchers are studying several pharmaceuticals that may have positive effects on the virus, we still don’t have a definitive antidote. This is why it is important to do what we can to flatten the curve, and social distancing is one of the most effective remedies. This limits the spread of germs between people so that fewer people become sick and it buys our nation time to strengthen our healthcare forces.
We are in the midst of a historic and unprecedented event. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will be one for the history books. How will history judge our response to this crisis? Certainly we as a nation and as a health system were unprepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. It has exposed the flaws and weaknesses in our health system and pointed out the real need for expanded primary care in our country.
On March 19, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issued mandatory health orders to medical practices statewide to delay all elective medical and dental procedures until April 6th. On March 28, the order was amended such that non-emergency procedures are postponed further notice. Under these guidelines, Medical and dental practices have had to reduce office hours and/or close their office.
Observed annually on the fourth Tuesday in March, Diabetes Alert Day is a wake-up call to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes – an illness that affects millions of Americans of all ages, particularly when diabetes is left undiagnosed or untreated. This year, Diabetes Alert Day falls on March 24, and it’s especially imperative that the people of Alabama take note considering our state has among the highest prevalence of diabetes in the United States.
Unfortunately, significant events like the COVID-19 pandemic typically lead to a rise in phishing attacks that leverage the ongoing situation to fool people into providing confidential information or downloading malicious software. Now is a good time to remember a few key characteristics of phishing attacks to help prevent being a victim of a phishing attack.
Valentine’s Day was last month, and as usual, stores were filled with candy hearts while customers snapped up flowers and greeting cards. With Valentine’s Day now in the rear view mirror, while thinking about the holiday, I realized that we tend to overlook the opportunities we have every day to genuinely impact someone else. I found myself wondering how I could turn the seasonal attempts to show someone appreciation into a day-to-day routine. If I carried this mentality with me throughout the year, what downstream effects would follow? How would this impact not only my personal life, but my career and the culture of my organization?
On Dec. 31, 2019, an outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first reported from Wuhan, China. Since then, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and every major news outlet have kept us up to date on the outbreak and its impact across the world.
In winter, the combination of colder temperatures, dry air, and turned-up thermostats can wreak havoc on your respiratory and immune system. One of the best ways to reduce your risk for infection is to start using a humidifier. Although humidifiers can help to relieve sinusitis, moisturize dry skin, protect vocal cords, and halt the spread of flu germs, they can also promote bacteria and mold growth if not cleaned properly. Clean your humidifier by doing the following:
Each year, the landscape for physician practices has experienced seismic shifts in the areas of reimbursement, regulatory requirements, technology, and competition. Meeting the challenges of such a shifting landscape is a formidable task for even the most sophisticated of physician practices. Doing so requires a keen eye on what’s ahead and careful planning. So, let’s look at a couple of trends that should be considered in the planning process for 2020.
Over the last four decades, there has been a tremendous reduction in mortality of patients with cardiovascular diseases. This applies to the entire spectrum of disease, including patients with acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia.
I have a meniscus tear, now what?
Many patients who come to my clinic with an MRI that shows a meniscus tear are looking for advice on what to do next. Another physician may have told them that they need surgery because the MRI is abnormal. Some people just want another opinion. Not all meniscus tears need surgery.
I first want to understand the patient’s symptoms, and I look to see if the knee is locking, catching, or if it feels unstable. Meniscus tears that are unstable create these problems, which may indicate that more damage is being done to the articular cartilage in the rest of the knee. An additional concern here is that the knee could give way at a bad time, causing a fall or buckle leading to another injury. Be careful.
Breaking a bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis. Approximately one in two women, and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bone to become brittle and weak, which allows them to fracture with relatively low impact. We typically refer to an osteoporotic fracture as a fragility fracture.
With more healthcare organizations moving to VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) for their phone and communication needs, it’s important to understand the technology and how to make it work for your business needs. So let’s start with the basics.
The holidays are a season of joy, gratitude, and family. However, for people with allergies it can be a difficult time. Class parties and homemade treats make it hard to check food labels and ingredients. Christmas trees and decorations can cause their own problems with those who are environmental or dust mite allergic. Having to say “no” to a thoughtful treat given by a neighbor due to your child’s nut allergy, but still remaining grateful for the gesture can be awkward.
Are you struggling to keep your employees engaged? Are you aware of the factors that impact engagement in the workplace? Often, we assume that if employees like their jobs, they will be fully engaged at work, but in reality, healthy workplace engagement extends beyond job satisfaction. Engaged employees not only enjoy their jobs, but are also motivated to work toward a common goal aligned with their company’s vision. It’s a big-picture formula that involves both the organization and management.
During your first visit as a new patient to our fertility clinic, the American Institute for Reproductive Medicine, you will undergo a series of lab tests. These tests are critical in determining the right treatment plan. We focus on eight common lab tests.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which as its name implies, is a disorder related to the change in seasons. The earlier sunsets cause less daylight exposure which can impact mood and, subsequently, cause depression for many people. Further, SAD occurs like clockwork as the seasons change with certain people exhibiting the first warning signs in the fall which, consequently, worsen in the winter. During this time people with the disorder feel depressed, lethargic and irritable to the point that it interferes with their daily functioning.
Managing medical waste is not for the faint of heart - and neither is managing a medical office. Your facility’s staff must adhere to strict, sometimes time-consuming medical waste guidelines and regulations while providing the highest level of patient care. You must protect the health of your patients, your employees, and the environment. Following best practices in health care delivery, medical waste management, and medical office management can streamline processes and help ensure the best delivery of service in each area.
Most people associate allergy season with the Spring, but just because the pollen isn’t present doesn’t mean the sniffles aren’t.
Hay fever, despite its name, actually has nothing to do with hay. Ragweed is a common cause of hay fever/allergic rhinitis. Ragweed begins to pollinate in mid-August and will continue provoking allergy symptoms through the fall until a hard freeze. Allergy shots, sublingual allergy drops or dissolvable ragweed tablet are beneficial for patients who struggle with ragweed, helping to build immunologic tolerance to pollen.
According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the fourth most challenging issue in practice management is collecting from self-pay and high deductible patients. With patient payments representing a growing portion of practice revenue, re-engineering how patient collections are approached is crucial to practice success.
Real estate is the second highest expense behind payroll for most healthcare practices. The benefits of capitalizing during lease negotiations can include a healthy raise through increased profitability, reduced debt, a nicer office and more. On the contrary, if negotiations are not handled properly, the results can be decreased profitability, resulting in the need to produce tens to hundreds of thousands of additional dollars just to pay the same bills that should have cost less.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, is a minimally invasive alternative to open heart surgery for patients who require replacement of their aortic valve due to severe aortic stenosis. Although previously available only to patients at high or intermediate surgical risk, in August the Food and Drug Administration approved both of the latest-generation TAVR valves for use in patients at low surgical risk. This is a large group of patients who are typically younger and/or more active than those at higher risk. Until now these patients' only option was open heart surgery.
Information Technology now dominates almost every part of our daily lives and in most cases, we do not have to think or worry the outcomes. We trust that what we input on our phones, keyboards and tablets will result in the right answer. With these repetitive motions it has allowed our business to grow and flourish. But what happens when those items break?
Influenza, commonly known as flu, is a virus that can be spread by droplets. It can occur anytime of the year, but the majority of cases occur in December through March. Flu vaccines are the single best way to protect yourself from getting the flu. It is best to be vaccinated in early fall, as it takes two to four weeks to build up immunity. You can still develop the flu after being vaccinated, but cases are generally milder than for those that have not been vaccinated.
You are likely aware of the outbreak of measles that has received a lot of attention in 2019. The CDC reports that over 1,000 cases of measles have been reported this year, which is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.
VoIP is a game-changer for the healthcare industry’s communication landscape, allowing for quicker, more reliable communication. However, it also brings with it a multitude of HIPAA concerns that can be confusing to navigate.
Yesterday, I received a text from my eye doctor informing me that I have not scheduled my yearly exam and need to make an appointment. The notification was an electronic version of the Annual Patient Postcard reminders. But unlike the old postcards, the text included links to automatically call the office or direct me to visit self-scheduling. Booking that appointment has been on my to-do list for weeks, but I seem to only remember to do it after the office has closed. Yet, with one click and about two minutes of my time, the mission was accomplished. That’s when it dawned on me – healthcare is going “Amazon.”
The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama has completed its inaugural year of operations, assisting more than 5,000 patients and callers seeking mental health expertise for children, adolescents and their families in central Alabama. The PIRC, established in March 2018 as a collaboration between Children’s and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope, is one of only three centers of its kind in the U.S. We are dedicated to identifying the right care at the right time and at the right place.
While it’s easy to shop around for the best price on a car or the cheapest gallon of milk, it can be nearly impossible to predict what your medical bill will be following a procedure or hospital visit, regardless of your health insurance coverage.
It is that time of year again - pool parties, camping, hiking, yard work, and picnics. Along with increased time outdoors comes the risk of an insect sting. While insect stings occur regularly, only about two to three percent of patients will experience an anaphylactic reaction. These anaphylactic reactions occur more commonly in adults than in children. A majority of these patients do not seek medical care.
As financial advisors, we help our clients to consider and plan not only for their own goals, but also for some of life’s serious “what ifs.” What if you want to retire early? What if you want to buy a vacation home? What if your child is planning to attend graduate school? What if you need long-term care? What if you are raising a young family and you get cancer?
The “just right” theme repeated in the classic fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears hits close to home at Children’s of Alabama’s Pediatric Imaging Center (PIC), where services are tailored especially for kids. Every inch of the PIC, located at Children’s South Pediatric Outpatient Center in Birmingham, is designed with children in mind to ensure their experience is “just right.”
One of the most common operations in orthopaedics and sports medicine is surgery for a torn meniscus. I get a lot of questions about what this surgery involves, how long it takes to recover, and when it should be done.
Sound processes are essential to the success of any business. This is even more important in healthcare, where the ever-changing environment makes process improvement vital in order for a practice to prosper.
Recently, a friend in the pharmaceuticals business asked me about SGLT-2 Inhibitors. He wanted to know what a nephrologist thought of the drugs, and I expressed strong misgivings about potential complications.
Over the last few years, cell phones have become computers, capable of much of the functionality that your office computer has. This is also true for small portable devices such as iPads, Windows and Android tablets. Are these devices and applications as secure as those you use from your clinic? In most cases, the answer is no.
As the temperatures spike this summer, the risk of heat-related injury such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion also rise. While the temperatures are hard to avoid, there are ways to recognize symptoms and prevent heat-injury. People who tend to be more at risk are young children and infants, people over the age of 65 and those who are overweight or have a preexisting illness. It is important to note that some medications can also make you more sensitive to sun exposure and heat.
Trying to comply with HIPAA can be a challenge for healthcare providers, especially when there is so much confusion about specific aspects of the rules. Policyholders contact SVMIC almost every day for assistance with HIPAA-related issues. In fielding those calls and emails, we have identified some commonalities.
As our society transitioned to mobile phones, a frequently overheard question and related advertising theme was “Can you hear me now?”
What if a microscopic amount of food protein you accidentally ingested quickly resulted in life threatening symptoms such as hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing? This is a serious reality for patients with food allergies and results in a constant anxiety and fear of accidental ingestion. Many are never able to eat out at restaurants, go to baseball games, fly on planes, attend movies, or simply have the option to eat at any table in a cafeteria without fear. This not only affects the patients, but their families as well.
Over the past several years the healthcare industry has become the number one target of cyberattacks. These attacks have exposed tens of millions of customers’ identities worldwide, costing an estimated $1 billion USD in losses.
The Apple Watch and other wearables are now able to monitor your heart rhythm. The Apple watch can detect irregular heart rhythms, and if it does so five times, it will prompt you to record your rhythm. In that way, it can also be used to diagnose atrial fibrillation.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) regulates pharmaceutical hazardous waste. Under the EPA, unused and disposed of pharmaceuticals are evaluated, managed and disposed of as potential “hazardous waste” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Regulations. The RCRA establishes procedures and standards for hazardous and solid waste material management and disposal. Under the RCRA, solid waste includes “solids, liquids and gases and must be discarded to be considered waste.”[i]
We have heard a lot from the media on active shooter events throughout the U.S., but how many of these include healthcare facilities? The Homeland Security and the FBI define “active shooter” as “an event where one or more persons actively engage in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” Statistics show active shooter incidents involving healthcare facilities are less common than other events, but they can occur, so planning may save lives.
Like customers in most other industries, patients are turning to the internet to learn about physicians before seeking treatment. The following tips will help your practice manage your physician’s online identity in order to maximize the benefit and reduce the risks associated with online information.
Atrial fibrillation (AFIB), a condition in which the heart fires so rapidly that the upper chambers quiver instead of beating in a normal rhythmic pattern, is the now most common arrhythmia condition worldwide and is recognized as a global health problem with its burden of morbidity and mortality resulting from embolic stroke. AFIB is expected to double by 2030.
Vince Lombardi once said football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport. He was right. And when you or your family members are involved in collision sports like football (or soccer, wrestling, basketball, mountain biking, etc.) your shoulders may pay the price. Contact injuries to the shoulder are a common cause of down-time and occasionally result in surgery. What is the best management for these injuries?
Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a disease process in which plaque buildup causes the arteries to narrow, resulting in reduced blood flow to the limbs. This can lead to a variety of medical emergencies: Claudication, stroke, uncontrolled hypertension, and possibly amputation.
In 2012, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) became commercially available in the US to treat high-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis. It offered effective, minimally invasive, and often lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands of patients who previously had no option for aortic valve replacement surgery.
A recent global study by the Ponemon Institute finds that the financial damage caused by a data breach has risen by 6.4 percent in the last year and now costs companies an average of $3.86 million each.
In 2016 Forrester Research analysts focused their attention on emerging social phenomenon in consumer behavior. They identified several key social trends that are impacting our industry’s ability to adapt to changing policy, market trends and patient needs. One trend they observed was the rapid adoption of new solutions and the abandonment of solutions that didn’t immediately provide value. This trend was seen across all industries.
When I speak with a patient regarding knee replacement or hip replacement surgery, he/she often asks in detail about the post-surgical rehab. In my specialty of orthopaedics, rehabilitation is critical to the success of the surgery. However, one of the major risks, although uncommon, facing surgery patients is the formation of a blood clot within a deep vein. This complication is often overlooked, and can be fatal when symptoms are ignored.
The False Claims Act (“FCA” or “Act”) is a federal anti-fraud statute that protects against persons and companies defrauding the government. The Act has been dubbed the government’s “primary litigation tool for recovering losses resulting from fraud.” The FCA imposes civil liability on any one who “knowingly presents…a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval” to the federal government. It is used extensively to protect against fraud in healthcare.
At this point, nearly every American has heard about the opioid crisis. With increasing scrutiny from governing bodies regarding opioids, pain physicians are tested in treating patients in the challenging chronic pain population. While non-opioid medications, therapy and procedures have their place in treating chronic pain, what are physicians to do when patients fail all of these options? One treatment to consider is spinal cord and peripheral nerve stimulation.
The Department of Justice designated 12 federal prosecutors across the country as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Units. These Units are assigned to areas where the most opioid drug-related deaths have occurred: California, Nevada, Alabama, Central Florida, East Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Maryland. Members of these Units also includes numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement and governing entities including the DEA, FBI, HHS, and other federal and state agencies (Medicaid Fraud Control Units, FDA, IRS, State Pharmacy Boards, etc.). These Units have a specific mandate to target physicians, pharmacists, and ancillary services (addiction treatment centers, etc.).
Two years ago, the Children’s of Alabama Community Healthcare Education Simulation Program, or COACHES, launched with a mission of improving pediatric care in community hospitals throughout Alabama.
During my 30 years in healthcare consulting, I have seen several reform initiatives come and go.
In many cases, the initiatives have enhanced the ability of consumers to access insurance coverage and ultimately healthcare. In 1993, President Clinton proposed legislation that led to growth in Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and also the HIPAA privacy standards which are still in place today. In the 2000s, President George Bush proposed changes to the Medicare program that led to the implementation of Medicare Part D coverage.
A look at the calendar tells us that we only have a short time left in 2018. That means many practices will be looking to complete their Security Risk Assessments in order to either qualify for the 2018 Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or to simply fulfill their obligations to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule.
National Cybersecurity Awareness Month was created in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to remind us that each we all have the power to make the Internet safer.
2017 was the first year for participation in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), a Quality Payment Program (QPP) implemented by CMS, to award or penalize participating clinicians with regard to future Medicare reimbursements based upon reporting under four categories:
On Sept. 6, representatives of Children’s of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and the Lakeshore Foundation gathered to cut the ceremonial red ribbon for the grand opening of Children’s at Lakeshore – the latest chapter in a partnership among the institutions.
A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 20 percent of Medicare participants 65 or older don’t take their blood pressure medicine as directed.1 Additionally, 20-30 percent of prescriptions for chronic health conditions are never filled and roughly 50 percent are not taken as recommended.1
How often do you walk into a room and completely forget why you went into the room? Or do you struggle with remembering someone’s name a few seconds after they introduce themselves to you? It seems that these “senior moments” occur more frequently as we all get older. As a clinical neuropsychologist, I am often asked if this is normal aging or if it is a sign of a bigger problem such as Alzheimer’s disease. The field of neuropsychology is uniquely skilled to answer this very question. Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-field of psychology which examines the relationship between the brain and behavior. It uses neuroscience, neuroanatomy, cognitive psychology, cognitive science and clinical psychology to understand the structure and function of the brain in relation to behavior and the information processing aspects of the mind. Neuropsychologists help to assess, diagnosis and treat individuals with neurological, medical, developmental or psychiatric conditions across the lifespan. Neuropsychological testing can aid in understanding how different areas of the brain are working. Neuropsychologists use various standardized tests to objectively examine a person’s strengths and weaknesses in all areas of thinking or cognition. Tests may be paper-and-pencil, answering questions, computer-based or task oriented. Areas of cognitive impairment or deficit can be identified and placed within the context of the individual’s medical and psychological history in order to determine what condition may be impacting a person’s functioning and thinking.
It’s been more than twenty years since the 1997 revisions to Evaluation and Management guidelines, which focus mainly on physical examination. The 2019 proposed changes provide practitioners a choice in the basis of documenting E/M visits; alleviate the burdens, and focus attention on alternatives that better reflect the current practice of medicine. The implementation of electronic medical records has allowed providers to document more information, yet repetitive templates, cloning, and other workflows have pushed the envelope on compliance in documenting the traditional elements of the visit.
Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm which can cause adverse clinical outcomes such as stroke and heart failure. An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people have AF in the United States. As the prevalence of AF increases with increasing age, with an aging population, prevalence of AF is expected to double in the next 2-3 decades. People above the age of 40 years have a 1 in 4 chance of developing AF in their lifetime. Patients with AF are 6-7 times more likely than general population to suffer from a stroke.
Many Alabama providers participated in the Quality Payment Program in 2017, under MIPS (Merit Based Incentive Program). A handful participated in a MIPS APM (Alternative Payment Model), which is a baby step towards alternative payments, but still left the participants free from downside risks. As we pass the half-way point for the 2018 performance period, exploring risk bearing programs is on the rise.
Is your EHR application in the cloud or are you considering moving to a cloud based provider? If so ensuring that you know the providers processes for data backup, disaster recovery and overall security are extremely important.
Fraud. It’s an ugly thing and it’s everywhere, the medical industry is no exception. When most people think about fraud, they think about white collar criminals stealing millions of dollars from big name companies, or the “dark web” where most of our social security numbers and credit card numbers are floating around just waiting for a buyer. The truth is most businesses will experience some type of fraud during their operation. It is so important for owners and business managers to be constantly vigilant to protect their practices.
One of the greatest challenges facing the healthcare industry isn’t a political issue, it’s a geographic issue. What if I told you that approximately 50 million Americans (17 percent of the total population of the US) have limited access to high quality healthcare because they live in rural communities? Rural healthcare has a unique set of challenges including not only geographic but also economic and lifestyle factors.
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. Although it is common, it is still one of the least well-known cancers and a diagnosis can cause confusion about treatment, symptoms, and potential side effects. In search of a minimally-invasive treatment for your prostate cancer? Through our partnership with Vituro Health, Urology Centers of Alabama is the first and only in the state to offer High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, or HIFU treatment.
I recently visited a specialty practice at a major health system. As I approached the registration desk a posted sign directed me to a standing kiosk to sign in. The family member I accompanied to the visit was unable to stand at the kiosk, so I provided the needed information and signed her in. Although it was a quick and seamless process, I was concerned because if I needed assistance, there were no employees to ask. Many practices have implemented kiosk sign-ins and have someone to assist a patient with the process if needed. Practice administrators have made the decision to implement kiosk to assure verification of the current insurance policy and prompt the patient to pay any out of pocket expense before they see the doctor. Many of the kiosk solutions allow a pre-registration via email to allow the patient to populate data and upload information from their own device at their convenience. Benefits of Kiosk Sign-ins include: reduction in the staffing at the front desk, decrease in patient wait time, and most impressively is the increase of time of service collections.
One of the greatest challenges healthcare organizations face today is clinical application interoperability – the communication between computer systems, applications, or software to allow them to work in conjunction with one another.
"I believe it was divine intervention that I was sent to Aspire Physical Recovery Center at Cahaba River. The therapy team brought me back to myself."
It is especially important for smaller practices to be mindful of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) security regulations – a breach of ePHI can lead to costly notification requirements and potential monetary penalties under the HITECH Act. Managing physicians of small independent practices hold many responsibilities, including the duty to comply with the Security Rule within HIPAA regulations. This article provides a brief overview of federal ePHI compliance safeguards required in a practice. While not meant to be a comprehensive discussion of all requirements, it highlights legal considerations and safeguards a practice must implement to comply with HIPAA ePHI regulations. The federal Security Rule under HIPAA requires a health care provider (typically known as a Covered Entity) to have the minimum ePHI safeguards, listed below.
As today’s healthcare drive pushes practices even further down the path of pay for performance versus the older models of pay for volume, administrators and executives throughout healthcare are researching and implementing ideas to provide an overall better experience for patients.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is the descent of one or more parts of the vagina and/or uterus. Woman may experience displacement of the anterior, posterior or apex of the vagina, and often there is a combination. This is referred to as a cystocele, rectocele and enterocele.
Are you sleeping well? One in three Americans suffer from sleep-related issues. If you or someone you know suffers from a sleep disorder, there has never been a better time to find a solution. Lack of good sleep can be detrimental to one’s quality of life in many aspects. Untreated sleep disorders make it difficult to control other health conditions such as migraines, anxiety, depression, pain, and more. Poor sleep due to a disorder such as sleep apnea can also have negative effects on your social life, as you are too tired to participate in social activities. People who snore could also interrupt the sleep of their bed-partners! Finally, sleep issues can lead to poor concentration, job performance, and lack of productivity.
In 2012, I read this article that made me question much of what I thought I knew about my profession of serving clients as a guide for their financial decisions. The designation following my name for which I had worked so hard at obtaining? Good, but not enough. The incredible technology –from complex financial forecasting to automated investment management? Lacking.
On Friday, January 19, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule that will complicate the issues healthcare providers face in providing treatment to LGBTQ patients.
According to the Ponemon Institute – www.ponemon.org - the average cost of a data breach was $3.62 million dollars. This breaks down to $141 dollars per stolen record. International Data Corporation – www.idc.com – estimates that globally data storage will grow ten-fold by 2025 total of 163 zettabytes (a trillion gigabytes) by 2025. Data is stored in a vast range of devices including your smart phone, laptops, notebooks, workstations, tablets and even on your smart TV. Most businesses focus on the technical aspects of how to avoid data breaches (firewalls, anti-virus, security patches, etc.) and often how physical technical assets are destroyed at the end of their life are often overlooked or do not have a set process in place.
They were surprised, and you likely be will, too. Of the hundreds of healthcare organizations I’ve helped document HIPAA and meet compliance requirements, most are unaware that their Patient Health Information (PHI) is exposed in some way. If a cyber attacker took advantage of this situation, it could cause damage to your patients, bring giant HIPAA fines, and a loss of reputation.
The new tax reform law — commonly referred to as the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" (TCJA) — is the most significant tax legislation in decades. Although the law was passed only a few weeks ago, the impact on the economy and business outlook cannot be overlooked as the stock market rally continues and both individuals and businesses appear the most optimistic in quite some time.
Birmingham, AL – Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. (BHS), a Birmingham-based corporation administering national behavioral health programs since 1989, will be hosting a national economic and legislative forum on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at The Club in Birmingham, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
In the past few years, when we discussed patient satisfaction it pertained only to patient surveys and results. Some managers believe surveys are utilized by specialties, such as, plastic surgery who primarily practice on a cash basis. Consumerism is here to stay! Cost and quality will create a level playing field in healthcare. When working with a practice, I love to sit in the waiting room to see operations from the patient’s point of view. I also search the specialty online to review the competition and the effectiveness of the practice’s website; I may also see online reviews.
If you surveyed managing physicians and office managers from the Birmingham area about their business continuity plans, how confident do you think they would be with their Disaster Recovery solution? Do they feel prepared? Have they even thought about it?
In a world of rapidly accelerating technology, our lives have become a 24hr sprint of endless tasks to be completed within a certain timeframe. Doctor offices are inundated with patients many young in age presenting symptoms such as high blood pressure, racing heartbeat, headaches, chest pain, random sweats, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems. With the increased volume of patients and the demanding time constraints experienced in physician offices, these physical symptoms are often treated individually. The physician may prescribe medication, make recommendations on possible lifestyle changes, yet the symptoms remain. Effective treatment has to go deeper. These patients could be simply suffering from stress or they could be dealing with a more problematic subset of mood disorders: Anxiety Disorders.
Physicians and other medical care professionals spend years studying, training and preparing themselves to provide best possible care to their patients. In many instances, these professionals spend the bulk of their attention and energy on treating their patients and meeting the day-to-day challenges that come with providing the best care possible. Unfortunately, practicing in today’s economic climate within a medical industry undergoing a vast transformation has forced many medical professionals to place equal value on business issues that effect their practice. Often times, the business of operating a medical practice is never discussed in medical school. Instead, many healthcare professionals are forced to learn fundamental business principles on the fly in private practice. With the emergence of electronic medical records and coding, many healthcare providers and practices are spending a substantial amount of time concentrating on the business of healthcare in addition to patient care. Of all the business issues that must now be prioritized by the medical industry, medical billing and managing account receivables can bear the most burden of all.
Physicians serve on the frontlines of our healthcare system, and by extension the many social programs guaranteed by the Social Security Administration. It’s a large responsibility and we owe them a debt of gratitude. These dedicated care providers, across many areas of practice and at varied levels within our medical system, help more than 57 million children and adults who live with disabilities across the United States.
We hate to break it to you, but there's a HIPAA requirement you’re more than likely doing wrong. The Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is cracking down on requiring a true Healthcare Security Risk Analysis.
Most companies assume their cyber security is pretty good… until a breach happens and then you find out where the holes were. We often find that apathy and a lack of being proactive may cost you lots of money. An annual security audit is a necessity for all medical practices and companies in todays ever changing world of technology. It is a vital part of protecting your digital assets and cyber security plan for your organization. It’s not just about discovering any vulnerabilities or shortcomings, rather it’s about opportunities to strengthen your network security.
We all recognize that healthcare is evolving at a rapid pace. With this evolution, the need to share patient information to positively impact quality care, provide a seamless patient experience, plus save time for your staff to coordinate care is of critical importance. By making the most of new technology, today’s office equipment can easily and securely, help you do just that.
Noncompliance (non-adherence) to medical recommendations can have a significant impact on a patient’s overall health quality, resulting in decreased opportunities for prevention, delayed diagnosis, and incomplete or ineffective treatment. There may also be significant liability and financial risks to a responsible healthcare professional treating this patient, particularly as patient outcomes increasingly become connected to quality indicators and reimbursement.
Healthcare professionals are all well aware of what a clinical trial is, how they work, and the possibilities that are provided to those who participate. However, the majority of Americans have not participated or heard about opportunities to participate in clinical research. According to a survey conducted by Research!America in partnership with Zogby Analytics (2017), fewer than 10% of Americans actually participate in clinical trials. Digging further into the reasons why, 55% of those surveyed stated that they were not aware or lacked information regarding clinical trials (Research!America, 2017).
Dr. Sunshine arrives in her clinic at 8 am. Her lobby is full of patients. Mrs. Jane, a 45-year-old widower who has been Dr. Sunshine’s patient for 10 years. Mrs. Jane has recently been complaining about reoccurring back pain, the inability to fall asleep, and indigestion problems. Dr. Sunshine is aware of the sudden passing of Mrs. Jane’s husband a year ago and treats her physical symptoms as they present themselves with analgesics, sedatives and reflux medicine. Yet, Mrs. Jane’s complaints remain. Although compliant with her medications, Mrs. Jane’s symptoms are a result of Major Depressive Disorder.
An estimated 3.5 million people in the United States are infected with Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Many of these people do not know they are infected and are not receiving care or treatment. The CDC estimates that while Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965) comprise only 27% of the US population, they account for approximately three fourths of all HCV infections. Therefore, they are at greatest risk for hepatocellular carcinoma and other HCV-related liver disease. HCV is now the leading cause of liver transplantation and liver cancer in the US.
Robotic assisted surgery has seen an explosion since it was first introduced about 20 years ago with over 4 million procedures performed. Although minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery has been around longer, certain limitations existed within this field. Laparoscopic surgical instruments lack wristed movement, essentially forcing surgeons to operate with chop sticks. The effect was difficulty performing certain procedures and working at difficult angles. Robotic surgery allows wristed action of the instruments, better optics (depth perception), surgeon control of the camera, and better ergonomics. While there is not any significant change in long term outcomes, there are studies suggesting decreased pain and shorter hospital stays.
Your business' data could be compromised by the most unlikely of sources -- your own IT manager.
Over the past couple months, I’ve encountered multiple chilling examples of IT staff gone rogue. Of course, this isn't happening every day. But when it does, it's especially damaging to organizations with a one-person IT department. These lone IT managers often hold the keys to the kingdom. No one person - IT expert or not - should ever have complete control over passwords, access, processes, etc. Why? Consider these two recent incidents:
As of September 30, 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has received notices of 237 breaches. 46% occurred as result of hacking or IT security incidents; many at the business associate level. Ransomware is rampant and projected to increase 670%. As a covered entity, although a breach occurs at your business associate, under HIPAA, you are responsible for your protected health information and responding to the breach. OCR has been clear that breaches of 500 or more records will be investigated. Given the significant increase in breaches over the past few years, advance preparation is critical and can reduce the cost and burden of breach response.
Did you know a single patient health record can earn cybercriminals 10 times the price of a stolen credit card number on the black market?
The Office of Civil Rights is auditing small and large healthcare providers alike, imposing multi-million dollar fines in some cases. Meanwhile, the same electronic storage, mobile devices, and cloud-based applications that patients, doctors, and healthcare staff want to use often compromise a practice’s ability to keep that patient data safe.
It has now been two years since the implementation of ICD-10, everyone survived! While denials have been minimal, the goal of implementing ICD 10 to acquire more specificity and a complete picture of health has not been fully achieved. Physicians and managers have created a new set of shortcuts to assure payment of claims, relying on paper superbills or inappropriate conversions from ICD 9 to ICD 10.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American men and the second leading cause of cancer death. While a majority of men will be diagnosed after the age of 65, younger men do need to consider screening for prostate cancer, especially if risk factors are present such as African American heritage or a family history of prostate cancer.
Most all medical practices are preparing a MACRA project this summer. Our healthcare team has had the opportunity to speak to many physicians and managers regarding preparation for the transition from volume to value based medicine and reimbursement. A large project can be overwhelming for any practice but this is more than a project, it is a culture change!
The internet is a necessary part of the healthcare world today. This forces us to deal with the issue of managing employee Internet usage which can be a drain on your organizations productivity. This holds true in the healthcare industry whether you run a small clinic, large practice or hospital.
A family medicine doctor is someone you can always feel comfortable voicing your concerns to and leave an appointment feeling as though you were really listened to. They will help you to become an informed and active member of your healthcare decision-making process.
As we approach the beginning of summer, our minds are likely not on summer vacation. The process of assessing our electronic medical record vendor, absorbing the details of MIPS, and making the decisions on how to prepare, is overwhelming for small practices. The transition to value based medicine has been evolving over the last 10 years in stages; adopting electronic health record, Quality Reporting, and Meaningful Use. Many administrators and physicians did not realize the importance of each project; from choosing the right EMR, to implementing it properly, therefore achieving best practice workflows.
MONTGOMERY – Boyde Jerome “Jerry” Harrison, a family practitioner from Haleyville, was formally installed as president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama during the 2017 Inauguration, Awards Presentation and 50-Year Physician Recognition Dinner on Friday, April 14.
Recycling electronics is a great way to help conserve and reuse valuable resources and materials found in many gadgets, including glass, plastics, and various metals such as copper, gold, palladium, and silver. Many electronics, especially computers and televisions, contain toxic materials such as cadmium, lead, and mercury. Recycling and reusing electronics helps to keep these toxic materials out of our landfills and water supply.
A common diagnosis patients present at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital is stroke. One of the many deficits a stroke patient may incur is aphasia, a speech and language disorder that causes difficulty using or comprehending words during listening, speaking, reading and writing. Although symptoms may vary from patient to patient, the difficulties and frustrations people with aphasia and their families encounter are consistent.
Moving a medical practice can be a daunting task. A medical office move can be a result of needing a bigger space, physician retirement, or practice acquisition. While making patients aware of a major change is most certainly a priority, it is equally important to make sure their documents and all office data and service equipment survives the move as well.
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