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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 11/17/16

November 17, 2016 Dr. Jayne No Comments

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I heard from a couple of clients that CMS has started to notify practices of their selection for the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus initiative. Although the web site says that they updated the Region and Payer lists on November 15, I was unable to find the updated lists on the site. I’m assuming they’ll be putting out a press release shortly, but it would be nice to get the information from the source before clients start calling. The program starts January 1 and there is much work to be done for those selected.

Some of my clients who applied don’t have experience with prospective payments and may need retraining on their practice management and accounting systems to ensure they know what do to with the money and how to manage it. Fortunately my partner has a lot of experience in this regard, but it’s a learning opportunity for me as well. In urgent care, the only prospective payments I deal with are our occupational health contracts and that’s a different kind of accounting altogether.

I’m receiving a lot of requests for support from organizations that are relatively new to value-based care. One in particular has received reports from their ACO and the numbers don’t line up with what they are seeing in data from their EHR vendor. Reconciling competing reports isn’t one of my favorite pursuits, but I’m fortunate to work with a great data analyst who is going to start digging in. I’m suspecting that the ACO data might have issues since there are measures that have the same population and one is showing a zero denominator where the others clearly have denominators. One would think the ACO would have reviewed that and completed some data integrity checking before sending their participating practices into a scramble.

I think we’re going to start to see some buyer’s remorse as practices realize what ACO membership really means for them. I’ve seen quite a few independent practices that felt pressured to join organizations or risk being left out of referral networks. Some independent practices don’t have the most business-savvy people making decisions and may gave gotten more than they bargained for with regard to their responsibilities as part of the ACO. In this particular situation, the ACO agreement didn’t address the idea of what happens when there are data reconciliation issues. Even when we complete the analysis, my client might still be penalized based on the faulty data. These types of issues are going to continue to surface as more organizations move into the value-based care space but might not have the expertise to fully manage what they are trying to do.

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I spent several hours this week completing mandatory Maintenance of Certification activities for my primary board certification. It was a depressing activity since many of the questions covered minutiae that is hardly germane to the realities of practicing medicine. The format was an online “knowledge assessment” with provided citations for the information behind each question and answer. Notice I said “citations” and not “links” because finding the references was a manual process, and for some, a Google search failed to locate the materials. Other materials were fee-based and many were more than a decade old. I began to distrust whether I was spending my time wisely trying to find the right answer to pass the assessment vs. knowing that I was reviewing current information.

One of the questions were around the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, put out by the US Department of Health and Human Services. I’m not sure I need to know whether the Guideline officially recommends the frequency for alternating various types of activities in order to be a good physician. What I do know is that most of my patients need to eat less and move more. Splitting hairs with them on whether they prefer moderate-intensity exercise at a weekly minimum of X minutes vs. vigorous activity of Y minutes doesn’t play out in the six-minute office visit. If they’re overweight or have diabetes, hypertension, or metabolic syndrome, I need to focus on telling them that if they’re exercising they’re moving in the right direction and that they should consider doing more.

Maintenance of Certification is particularly difficult for those of us that work in non-traditional capacities or limited practice situations. For example, the modules where I am supposed to do practice improvement activities don’t necessarily apply to me because I don’t follow patients in continuity. Rather than giving me opportunities to do something relevant to my work, I have to do the same activities that traditional physicians do but with simulated data, and the learning value is pretty low. It’s particularly low because I’ve already done the exact activity before, in my last recertification cycle, because there are so few options for non-traditional physicians.

We are forced to maintain our primary board certifications for a couple of reasons. First, to be credentialed by payers, you generally have to be certified. Second, even to practice clinical informatics, we have to maintain a primary board certification. It’s a catch-22 for many of us who might consider dropping clinical practice altogether but want to stay certified in clinical informatics.

Speaking of that certification, the American Board of Medical Specialties approved a five-year extension on the so-called “practice pathway” to clinical informatics certification. Physicians who are currently practicing clinical informatics but who have not completed a fellowship can apply for certification through the 2022 examination cycle. I am grateful to AMIA for keeping everyone informed. The announcement cited continued workforce demand and opportunities for physicians seeking a full-time informatics career as contributing factors. Now we need a pathway for those of us who don’t want to maintain a primary certification to go “all in” for clinical informatics.

I’m way behind on my email due to some back-to-back travel and trying to get my board certification activities done. I was interested to see a request by the Food and Drug Administration for submissions on “Emerging Issues and Cross-Cutting Scientific Advances.” The FDA regulation process takes years, creating a need to assess how to regulate advances that are just now being thought of. The blog piece mentions ideas like intraoperative hibernation and brain-computer interfaces as examples. Submissions to the Emerging Sciences Idea Portal will be public, so I’ll have to make a reminder to follow up.

I’m taking a long weekend to recover from the chaos of the last several weeks. It put a dent in my frequent flyer and hotel points, but it’s exciting to have a trip planned that I’m actually looking forward to.

What’s your favorite long weekend getaway? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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