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Responding to the EEOC's Criminal Background Check Initiative Print E-mail
Written by Philip Marchion   
Friday, 05 October 2012 09:27

Of late, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) wants all employers to discontinue, or significantly curtail, use of criminal-background checks. Should  hospitals and health care providers think twice about this policy by the EEOC?

What to Ask For...
 
With respect to job applications, the EEOC recommends that employers not ask about convictions. With so many laws impacting healthcare - including strict regulations regarding patients privacy rights, HIPAA, etc. -many industry professionals believe that background checks for hospitals and physician practices are warranted.  

Employers can reconcile this situation by asking about convictions that are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Language on the application should indicate that not all convictions will bar employment and provide space for the applicant to explain the conviction.

To determine whether a criminal history is job related and consistent with business necessity, three factors come to mind: 1) the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, including the harm caused, specific elements of the crime, and whether it was a felony or misdemeanor; 2) the time since the offense or conduct and completion of the sentence; and 3) the nature of the job held or sought.

Employers must review the essential functions of each job. Hiring a controller would exclude those convicted for fraud. If hiring a custodian, a fraud conviction may not be relevant, although conviction for a violent crime likely would.
 
The EEOC did not provide guidance as to how old a conviction must be before it is considered irrelevant, but instead recommended that employers consider studies and recidivism data to determine the relevance of a particular conviction. To illustrate, if a doctor applicant was convicted for theft 15 years ago, but has not been convicted of a crime since, that applicant may not be statistically more likely to steal than any other applicants The opposite holds true for an applicant with a recent conviction for child abuse or sexual assault.

...And How to Ask For It

Employers with a plan in place regarding what convictions to look for must be ready to implement that plan. Recommendations include: 1) Make an offer of employment contingent on successful completion of the background check, which will impact the least number of applicants, 2) Wait until interviewees have been identified, and 3) Run a check after excluding applicants who are unqualified or have negative references.

Health care professionals have a great deal to assess when evaluating potential new hires. Malpractice cases, ratio of good outcomes, length of experience, understanding cutting-edge techniques, and of course, the personality dynamics of the workplace all impact the decision of the employer. Criminal concerns in background checks are possibly one more item.  Hospitals, medical offices, and healthcare service providers may be in the right if they don't conduct the check, but may feel compelled to do so for their own peace of mind.   They may wish to seek legal counsel to ensure criminal-check policy is, at the least, examining history that is job related and consistent with a business necessity.

Philip Marchion is an attorney with the Fort Lauderdale office of employment law firm Fisher & Phillips. He can be reached at (954) 847-4723 or PMarchion@laborlawyers.com
 
Improve Your Medical Practice Search Rankings in 15 Minutes Print E-mail
Written by Matt Langan   
Friday, 28 September 2012 10:07

Everybody wants their medical practice's website to rank at the top of Google search results for their target keyword phrase. Dominating Google can get your medical, dental, or chiropractic in front of people who are actively looking for exactly what your business offers - something that print, radio and television advertisements are not as effective at doing. Simply put, a top-ranking website can be a business owner's dream come true.
 
But most business owners don't know much about search engine optimization. And getting to the top of Google search results is not a cinch. Depending on the competitiveness of a keyword phrase, it can take months (even years) for a site to climb to the top of the Google ladder.

Don't let this reality distract you from taking action, though. If your website is new or just isn't meeting your expectations, there are some simple and powerful things you can do in just fifteen minutes that will help make your medical practice website more search engine friendly.

Click HERE to read more.

About Matt Langan:  Mr. Langan is a Co-Founder of CadenceMed, a company that improves patient relationships by optimizing the look, feel and functionality of a medical practice's online presence.

Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 10:12
 
The Role of Safety Net Providers (Part III) Print E-mail
Written by Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, FAAFP, FASAM   
Friday, 21 September 2012 16:43

Editor's Note:  If you would like to view or review Part I, click HERE. If you would like to view or review Part II, click HERE

  In part I Dr. Wollschlaeger detailed the historic role of safety net providers in our communities. He highlighted an increasing trend towards coordination of care and referenced an article published in Health Affairs that examines this trend in several communities throughout the U.S (the Community Tracking Study). In part II, the author analyzed selected key aspects and finding of the study. In part III Dr. Wollschlaeger summarizes Safety Net Challenges and Opportunities going forward.

What are the challenges and problems safety net providers face?

Many of the programs lack the capacity to serve all of the eligible uninsured. Providers' practices are often full, and they have limited availability to see new patients, especially uninsured patients for whom they provide care for free or for reduced fees.

Publicly subsidized programs are vulnerable to cuts in funding, especially given the strained local and state budgets of recent years. A major concern is the potential loss of funding for programs that have relied on Medicaid's disproportionate-share hospital payments, extra payments to hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid and uninsured patients, which are to be reduced under the Affordable Care Act. 

Despite efforts at greater community collaboration, fragmentation and competition among safety-net providers remains. Competition among safety-net providers for Medicaid patients can inhibit closer cooperation. Most safety-net hospitals and federally qualified health centers depend on Medicaid patients for their financial viability both because reimbursements are based on the cost of care (and therefore are considerably higher than reimbursement rates to private physicians) and because grant revenue often doesn't cover the full cost of care to the uninsured.

Community health centers may be reluctant to participate in collaborative arrangements if they think that such cooperation could result in a loss of Medicaid patients. For example, interview respondents from Miami noted that some federally qualified health centers in the community were concerned that efforts by Jackson Health System (the main public hospital) to convert some of its primary care clinics to federally qualified health centers would increase competition for Medicaid patients, given the higher Medicaid rate that the hospital-based clinics receive.

Safety net hospitals are often the natural leaders for community integration efforts given their size and broad service area, not all safety net hospitals are willing or able to assume that role. For example, Jackson Health System is the primary safety net hospital for Miami-Dade County but generally does not provide a leadership role in coordinating care and services with other safety net providers in the community. Part of this reflects Jackson's financial troubles at the time of the site visit (Jackson lost about $240 million in 2009 and $100 million in 2010), which forced it to cut back on some services. But it also reflects the fragmented nature of Miami's safety net, which respondents characterize as having more competition than coordination and collaboration among providers to provide care to low-income Medicaid and uninsured patients.

Outlook & Opportunities:

Safety net providers-including health centers and hospitals-can form accountable care organizations to participate in Medicare's Shared Savings Program, in which networks of providers that jointly take responsibility for the cost and quality of care provided to their patients can share in Medicare savings.

New demonstration projects to test new payment and care delivery models have a potential impact on safety net coordination. For instance, the bundled payment model involves a single payment to multiple providers for an episode of care, which motivates providers to coordinate and deliver care more efficiently. Safety net coordination initiatives are also well poised to facilitate the insurance coverage expansions and health insurance exchanges created in the Affordable Care Act because of their established centralized enrollment systems that screen for eligibility for other public insurance.

This article, "Safety-Net Providers In Some US Communities Have Increasingly Embraced Coordinated Care Models."(Health Affairs), is a MUST read for the health provider community! 

About the author:  Dr. Wollschlaeger is a frequent contributor to FHIweekly and Specialty Focus. You can read more of his articles by visiting http://floridadocs.blogspot.com/.


Last Updated on Friday, 21 September 2012 16:53
 
The Role of Safety Net Providers (Part II) Print E-mail
Written by Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, FAAFP, FASAM   
Monday, 17 September 2012 07:52

Editor's Note: If you would like to view or review Part I, click HERE.

In part I Dr. Wollschlaeger detailed the historic role of safety net providers in our communities. He highlighted an increasing trend towards coordination of care and referenced an article published in Health Affairs that examines this trend in several communities throughout the U.S (the Community Tracking Study). In part II, the author analyzes...

Selected Key Aspects and Finding of the Study

Nine of the twelve communities studied had some type of organized safety net program in 2010, compared to only three communities in 2000. Six of the twelve communities had made formal efforts to link uninsured people to medical homes and coordinate care with specialists in 2010, compared to only two communities in 2000. Five of the six programs explicitly require patients to have a medical home that they use for all primary care needs. A primary care physician practice that serves as a medical home is generally responsible for authorizing referrals for specialty care. Generally, a single primary care physician serves as the medical home for program participants. An exception is HealthNet in Boston, which is organized around the fifteen participating federally qualified health centers that serve as medical homes for the patients who are referred to Boston Medical Center (the safety-net hospital that administers HealthNet) for specialty and inpatient care.

Centralized referral networks are the most common type of community initiative and have grown most quickly during the past decade. They focus primarily on providing a centralized location where patients can receive referrals to physicians and schedule appointments with private practice physicians (mostly specialists) who agree to treat uninsured patients for free or at reduced costs.

A few of the (MEDICAL HOME) programs use provider incentives, such as capitation or enhanced fees, to encourage appropriate utilization of services for patients. For instance, the Medical Services Initiative in Orange County offers financial incentives for physicians to join the network. The program also includes extra payments for medical homes to provide at least one visit for each patient per year (two for people with chronic conditions), pay-for-performance incentives for medical homes to improve utilization of preventive services, and incentives for providers to reduce emergency department utilization. Health Advantage in Indianapolis pays capitated rates to primary care physicians to motivate physicians to encourage appropriate use of services and build relationships with their patients. It is unknown, however, whether these incentives are inadvertently discouraging the use of appropriate or necessary services.
 
Formal evaluations of the six coordinated care programs have not been conducted or are not publicly available. One reason may be a lack of staff availability or other resources. However, available data show that Health Advantage in Indianapolis has been successful in decreasing inpatient use and emergency department use. In the first eighteen months after the program began, inpatient days for uninsured people decreased by 50 percent, and emergency department use decreased by 30 percent.

In addition, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, the Medical Services Initiative in Orange County found that the ER Connect program reduced emergency department visits and increased the number of visits to primary care providers. Recent research on similar programs not included in the Community Tracking Study found that their patient costs were 25-50 percent lower than for patients enrolled in local Medicaid programs or through private insurance.

In Part III, the author will summarize Safety Net Challenges and Opportunities going forward.

Part III will run next week.

About the author: Dr. Wollschlaeger is a frequent contributor to FHIweekly and Specialty Focus. You can read more of his articles by visiting http://floridadocs.blogspot.com/.
 
 
The Role of Safety Net Providers (Part I) Print E-mail
Written by Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD   
Monday, 10 September 2012 07:06

Attached a link to an article published in the recent edition of Health Affairs titled "Safety-Net Providers In Some US Communities Have Increasingly Embraced Coordinated Care Models."  The article examines the Community Tracking Study, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change.  The findings of this study were also the focus of an article by John Dorschner published in the Miami Herald titled "Jackson Memorial Hospital too weak, county too divided to provide good safety net, study says"

Below please find some background information, facts and study findings excerpted from the Health Affairs article.  

FACTS: 

Safety net providers play a crucial role in providing health services to uninsured and low-income people. Although the Affordable Care Act is expected to expand coverage to more than thirty million uninsured people, it is generally recognized that the safety net will still be needed to provide services to an estimated twenty million people who will remain uninsured. In addition, in all likelihood, many existing Medicaid and newly insured patients will continue to use safety net providers rather than private mainstream providers because the safety net can better meet low-income people's specialized needs related to language, culture, and transportation

PROBLEM: 

Delivery of health services through the safety net historically has been fragmented. Usually hospitals, community health centers, and private physicians providing charity care have operated independently of each other, with little or no coordination of the care of a patient. Such fragmentation can result in severe gaps in the availability of services, reduce quality, lead to redundant use and increase the costs to providers who typically operate with limited resources and thin margins.

SOLUTIONS: 

During the past decade, however, a variety of community efforts to better coordinate care for the uninsured that reduce the use of emergency departments and increase the use of primary care providers have been documented. Most community initiatives focus on providers' efforts to better manage care for their uninsured patients; stretch limited public and private funds; and address serious gaps in services, particularly the lack of access to specialty care. Often these programs improve access to care for the uninsured at a much lower cost than either private insurance or local Medicaid programs.

STUDY DESIGN:

The Community Tracking Study, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change, consists of in-depth tracking of health system changes in twelve randomly selected metropolitan areas from 1996 to 2010. The communities are Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; Orange County, California; northern New Jersey; Cleveland, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; Lansing, Michigan; Syracuse, New York; Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Little Rock, Arkansas.

The article describes safety net coordination efforts in twelve randomly selected communities and illustrates how these efforts evolved during the past decade. In particular, we focus on initiatives that attempted to coordinate care across multiple providers and were often community wide in scope.

These initiatives were better able to manage the care of uninsured patients than a more fragmented system of care (for example, the initiatives used more outpatient primary care to reduce inpatient and emergency department use). Some evidence obtained from the twelve communities indicates that initiatives to coordinate care across providers reduce high levels of emergency department use and reduce the cost of providing care to the uninsured, but barriers to coordination remain.

Part II will run next week. The author will examine Selected Key Aspects & Findings of the Study. 

About the author:  Dr. Wollschlaeger is a frequent contributor to FHIweekly and Specialty Focus. You can read more of his articles by visiting http://floridadocs.blogspot.com/. 

Last Updated on Friday, 14 September 2012 11:51
 
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