Posts Tagged - ‘doctors’

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Will AT&T’s New Business Make Health Insurance Plans Cheaper?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Last week, AT&T announced that it will be launching a new unit called ForHealth. The target market is doctors, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical firms.

It aims to provide cloud-based networking solutions, which are set to lower medical costs while improving communication–and therefore patients’ health. Many believe that moving to digital record keeping will lower the cost of health insurance plans, with the savings hopefully being passed onto consumers.

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Hospitals Criticize Unrealistic Electronic Medical Record Goals

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

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Electronic medical records have been largely looked upon as a panacea: they have the potential to reduce costly and harmful errors, as well as lowering administrative expenses–savings that can then be passed on through lower health insurance rates.

To this end, funding for incentives was included in Obama’s stimulus package last year. Unfortunately, doctors, health insurance plan providers, and hospitals are complaining that the goals are far too unrealistic for the short term. Even facilities that have been praised for their implementation would not qualify on enough of the nearly 30 guidelines to receive funding.

President Obama has called for all medical records to be computerized within five years. Insurers like Kaiser Permanente doubt that will happen on schedule.

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Arizona Immigration Law Puts Doctors In A Bind

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

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According to the Hippocratic Oath, doctors are tasked with treating all patients to the best of their ability, regardless of who they are–or their immigration status. Meanwhile, Arizona recently passed a controversial law that states, among other things, that anybody suspected of harboring an illegal immigrant can be charged a fine.

Some physicians are worried that this will affect their practice, adding yet another bureaucratic worry on top of dealing with health insurance providers and reimbursement. They speculate that they may be required to ask for passports before treating patients.

Moreover, it may shoot a hole through the trust essential to the doctor-patient relationship, because it interferes with confidentiality. Some health conditions may be related to living or working conditions related to being undocumented, but which patients will never reveal for fear of being deported. Illegal immigrants are already forbidden from participating in Arizona health insurance exchanges, or those from any other state. As a result, they may pay for treatment through cash or other means.

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Is Ego Responsible For U.S. Healthcare Woes?

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

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In the Boston Globe, an opinion editorial by Douglas S. Brown has an interesting viewpoint regarding the problems that have faced the American health insurance system for decades. His view is that ego and hubris from all sources (hospitals, doctors, insurers, medical school professors, and even patients) has stood in the way of improvements.

He acknowledges that our nation is deservedly proud of technological innovations that increase the length and quality of life. However, we are behind several other developed nations in efficiency, quality, and access–although many refuse to acknowledge it. For example, there are too many preventable medical errors each year. Many hospital boards, meanwhile, are more concerned about flashy cosmetic improvements and additional facilities.

Physicians are trained as independent craftspersons, and have historically had little interest in teamwork. However, current compensation from health insurance plans–as well as the best outcomes–depend on cooperation. Brown feels that we can learn from our errors in order to truly become the best health care system in the world.

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Be Careful With Cosmetic Procedures From Doctors

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

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An increasing number of physicians, including dermatologists, and dentists are offering cosmetic services in addition to their medical practice. It can be convenient to have them under the same roof. However, beware of hidden charges.

Most health insurance companies won’t cover cosmetic procedures, unless they are deemed medically necessary (i.e. an eyelid lift due to vision problems).

If your doctor or dentist recommends a procedure like Invisalign, ask them if it is actually needed. Also, be clear about the out-of-pocket cost. No matter what he or she says, most doctors know exactly what amounts various health insurance plans cover.

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Do You Trust Sitting Doctors More Than Standing Ones?

Friday, May 14th, 2010

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Strange but true: many people do. A recent study from the University of Kansas found that patients are significantly more satisfied with the quantity and quality of health care they receive when their doctor sits by their bedside, as opposed to standing.

Cost and timing pressures–due to health insurance and other issues that encourage quicker turnaround times–have unfortunately resulted in shorter doctor’s appointments. The act of sitting doesn’t cost any more money or take any more time, but makes patients feel that physicians are paying attention to them more. Maybe that’s actually true.

When patients feel more comfortable and less rushed with their doctors, they’re more likely to speak freely about their symptoms and compliance. This will allow doctors to better diagnose and treat them, while requiring fewer expensive tests. The result: cheaper health insurance plans!

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Is Bundled Health Care In Our Future?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

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One of the primary causes of rising health insurance premiums is the sheer overuse of care. The current payment system encourages doctors to order as many procedures as possible, since they get paid on an a-la-carte basis. The cost is then passed to health insurers, and therefore you.

In the near term, healthcare reform won’t change this. However, it does create pilot programs that experiment with bundled payments. Bundled health care means that physicians and hospitals are paid a near-flat fee based on treating and managing certain conditions, as opposed to being paid for each individual procedure.

Proponents of the strategy claim that it will lead to more affordable health insurance, since it provides an incentive for doctors to use preventative care more effectively.

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Med School Students Learn About Health Insurance

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

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In the past, medical school training and residency has mainly consisted of the technical aspects of medicine. Obviously, that should be the focus, but an increasing number of med school students are also learning about the actual environment they practice in.

Health insurance plans play a key role in the real world, and it will continue to be important as healthcare reform is implemented. New doctors are often frustrated when patients don’t follow directions, when it turns out that those patients are either uninsured or underinsured. They are also unprepared to handle a variety of complex billing and reimbursement procedures.

Several schools are now teaching courses on the subject. Doctors-in-training are learning about the costs of commonly ordered tests, and more cost-effective alternatives that may work as well. Their choices can lower medical bills–and therefore health insurance rates–for individual patients and the country.

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Many Doctors Hate Health Insurers

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

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According to a significant percentage of currently practicing physicians, health insurers take quite a bit of the joy out of their job.

Why? In order to effectively care for their patients, some doctors spend hours of unpaid overtime poring over claim paperwork to make sure that they are reimbursed by their patient’s health insurance plan. They are also frustrated with being paid for individual services performed, as opposed to cost savings or health outcomes.

Unfortunately, a recent survey of doctors has found that they believe that affordable health insurance reform will make an already bad situation even worse.

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New Trend: Lump Sum Health Insurance Payments

Friday, April 30th, 2010
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An increasing number of doctors and health insurance companies are considering lump-sum reimbursement. As opposed to being paid for every procedure they perform, health care providers will be paid a certain amount to treat a particular condition or perform a particular surgery.

Proponents of the strategy believe that it promotes preventative care and more cooperation. It also makes costs more predictable for your health insurance plan.

Some worry that bundled payments will penalize doctors who deal with complicated cases and chronic conditions. Despite those concerns, several major health insurers in California are already on board.

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