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August 2013 Client Newsletter

Civil unions and gay marriage

Civil Unions and gay marriage are current reality. They are handled the same as any other confidential communication. Since we have no right to discuss an adult patient's medical treatment with a parent, spouse, child, other relative, or roommate without express HIPAA authorization, the same holds true for civil unions & gay marriage.

For your married spouses, civil union patients, gay married patients, you should consider asking if they wish to allow their spouses or domestic partners to receive PHI. Of course, this needs to be captured in writing as part of your routine Privacy paperwork.

This applies to the majority of patient encounters, but not to those involving emergency care or other circumstances that allow a provider to bypass HIPAA in order to ensure appropriate medical care.

Medicare Revalidation Letters

As everyone should know by now, Medicare has been revalidating providers for about a year now. The letter sent to the provider allows 60 days. If they do not receive the properly completed application within the 60 days, all payments are halted until the application has been submitted and fully approved. Cash flow ceases during that period.

If you are going to handle the application, we strongly recommend starting it ASAP. If you want us to process it for you, we need it within a week of the date you received it. This allows us time to complete the part we can do, allows you time to complete the questions that the provider must complete, and ensuring Medicare has received it in time. This is one time when procrastination is not a good idea.

Audits - Medicare

In the event you receive an audit letter from Medicare (or any insurer), it is important that you do not set it aside and forget it. Failure to respond results in a minimum of automatic recoupment of the original payment, and increases the likelihood you will be further audited.

Documentation is key, as you already know! Be sure to send your documentation well in advance of the deadline (usually 30 days). Before sending your response, we suggest contacting Rich so he can review the documents for relevance and signatures. No cost for our review, and at least half the time it has prevented providers from sending documents without proper signatures (another reason to deny the claim and take back money).

Collecting patient email addresses

Think about the emails you get that you open right away - something from your kids' school, an invitation for a weekend with friends, a note from your spouse or one from your doctor.  I'm pretty sure that if something showed up in your inbox from a physician you recently visited you'd be sure to give that priority status. 

In fact, in a recent study by The Wall Street Journal over 80% of survey respondents wanted their doctors to communicate with them by email. So it would make sense that physicians would do everything they can to collect a patient's email. In a Manhattan Research study only about one-third of physicians are collecting email or communicating with their patients in an electronic format.

Collecting patient email addresses and using them to connect with them offers several important benefits, including:

Marketing opportunities for the practice (new services, reminder for annual checkups, etc.)
A mechanism for delivering patient statements and bills that can speed time to payment (faster cash flow) and lower postage expense.

That last point is incredibly important, as one of the things that email has dramatically reduced is paper.  According to the Post Office over 60% of us pay our bills online and that number of rising steadily. 

Healthpac does have the ability to capture patient email addresses.

2013 Client Newsletter Archive