Monday, July 1, 2013

“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief”

"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief, "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.”

Whether it is ICD-10 or PQRS or meaningful use, physicians can surely identify with this refrain from Bob Dylan’s classic 1967 anthem: there is too much confusion over what is expected of them, they can’t find a way out, and they surely aren’t getting any relief from government.

But what if there was someone out there who was willing to keep track of all of the deadlines and associated deliverables affecting them and their practices?  So that doctors could spend more time with patients instead of tracking what form the government needs and when?  Someone who not only told them what was required of them by what date, but also suggested steps that they could take, weeks, months and even years in advance to make things easier?  Someone who was able to cut through the confusion by providing simple, understandable, and practical resources to help them successfully meet the demands that have been imposed on them? Someone who not only kept a timeline and resources on the annoying regulatory deadlines that government imposes on them, but also kept track of opportunities to be better paid for their services, along with what specific steps they need to take to qualify?

Well, the American College of Physicians is that someone.  Earlier this month, the College released a new tool, the Physician and Practice Timeline, “a helpful at-a-glance summary of important, upcoming dates related to a variety of regulatory, payment, educational, and delivery system changes and requirements” according to the ACP website.  But it is more than a summary: on a quarterly basis, physicians and their staff can access a drop-down menu of  key dates/deadlines relating to each of the six regulatory/reimbursement programs currently being tracked in the tool, as well as suggested states and action steps that they can take to prepare for a subsequent deadline or requirement.  On the right hand border of the tool’s landing page, they can see a list of  “ongoing items” with “guidance on what you should be working on, collecting, and thinking about right now.”

The timeline currently tracks six programs: Medicare’s e-prescribing, Physicians Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Value-Based Modifier (VBM) programs;   Meaningful Use requirements for electronic health records, ICD-10; the Sunshine Act, and Transitional Care Management Codes.   Looking today at the tool’s main landing page, for instance, and you’ll find that July 1 (today)  is the start date of the data collection period for Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting Program, “The six-month PQRS data collection period for .5% bonus is from July 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013” the site explains. “The six-month period only applies to reporting measure groups via registry. Physicians must begin reporting 2013 PQRS to avoid the (-) 1.5% penalty in 2015 to their Medicare reimbursements.” 

On meaningful use, it explains that “Eligible Professionals beginning their first year of Meaningful Use must report data for any 90-day period during the calendar year. Reporting period runs from July 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013.”   August 1 is the date when “applicable manufacturers and GPOs must begin tracking covered payments and transfers of value to physicians and teaching hospitals. Industry will be reporting all 2013 exchanges from this date to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the first quarter of 2014.”

Want more information? Click on the drop down menu for each program, and the tool gives the user access to practical information that has been developed or approved by ACP to help physicians successfully satisfy the requirements for each program, or to qualify for higher reimbursement as is the case for the transitional care management codes.

ACP plans to add more programs to the tool over the next several months, will constantly update (and retire information that is no longer relevant), and make the tool even more interactive.  Currently, the tool is available and free to anyone, member or non-member of the College, although ACP plans to make it a benefit that is offered free of charge only to members later on in the year.

Another line in Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” continues “So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”  The hour is getting late for physicians to qualify for higher PQRS, e-RX, and
Meaningful Use payments and avoid penalties, to comply with the ICD-10 mandate, or earn higher payments for their transition of care management services.   ACP’s new timeline tool can help reduce the “too much confusion” that exists about these and other programs, help lead physicians to a way out, and provide them with much needed relief from the byzantine world of Medicare payments and regulations.

Today’s question: What do you think of ACP’s Physician Practice and Timeline tool?

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