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Practice briefs

From the January 1997ACP Observer, copyright 1997 by the American College of Physicians.

Coding manual cheaper, more compact

A slimmer, cheaper coding manual for Part B Medicare carriers is now available.

HCFA's new "National Correct Coding Policy Manual for Part B Medical Carriers" runs 261 pages and costs $65, compared with last year's 2,200-page, $208 version.

Also, for the first time, specific chapters covering specialty areas of medicine can be ordered.

This latest version, 2.3, reflects HCFA code additions and deletions through Sept. 30, 1996. To place an order, fax a request to the National Technical Information Service at 703-321-8547 or send an e-mail to orders@ntis.fedworld.gov.

Are Medicare HMOs overpaid?

Because Medicare HMO members are typically healthier than patients in traditional Medicare plans, the government could be paying Medicare HMOs too much-and pushing the already strapped program closer to bankruptcy.

The Center for Studying Health System Change (CSHSC) analyzed two studies on the adjusted average per capita cost (AAPCC), the monthly fees that Medicare pays its HMOs for enrollees. The AAPCC formula reflects characteristics such as age, gender, and Medicaid and institutional status, but not the health status of patients.

The CSHSC, part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, suggests that the payment formula reflect risk factors such as health status. But the CSHSC also notes that, to get such data, HCFA may have to pay Medicare HMOs to supply it-and financially penalize HMOs that don't.

NCQA certifies credentialers

Fourteen companies in the business of credentialing providers have passed a new test from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) designed to credential the credentialers.

Any credentialing company can volunteer for NCQA evaluation and request either a basic review of minimum standards or a basic review and an evaluation of 10 additional areas.

A two-member on-site team from NCQA examines performance in areas such as data collection, integrity of credentials, confidentiality and reporting of physician disciplinary action.

The names of NCQA-certified companies are located at http://www.ncqa.org/accred/evolist.htm.

Managed care not paring technology

Managed care has neither reduced the availability of high-cost technology nor increased the efficiency of its use, according to preliminary findings by researchers at Stanford University.

Their study of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) found more MRI sites in areas with more HMO activity than in other areas. As a result, each MRI site in those areas performs fewer procedures, leading researchers to conclude that the technology isn't being used efficiently.

Researchers said that proliferation of MRI technology may result from an effort by facilities to offer MRI capabilities to win managed care contracts.

New publications educate lab workers

New books from the Commission on Office Laboratory Accreditation (COLA) aim to educate laboratory workers on accurate, effective testing. COLA's publications for Waived and Provider-Performed Microscopy testing are intended for non-technical and laboratory personnel and include:

  • An individualized procedure manual on a facility's test menu.
  • Quality control and quality assurance forms.
  • Quality assurance plan
  • Training guides for testing personnel
  • The "OSHA Guide to Bloodborne Pathogens" booklet.
  • A subscription to COLA's technical bimonthly newsletter, COLA Update.

Information: 800-981-9883.

New booklet explains brain death

A new booklet from the National Donor Family Council answers questions that family and friends often have about brain death, including "If our loved one is really dead, why is his/her heart still beating?" and "How is it decided that my loved one is dead?"

The eight-page "Understanding Brain Death," which is written in question-and-answer style from the perspective of families of organ donors, was approved by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the National Kidney Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board.

The booklet costs $15 per 100 copies plus $8 shipping and handling. Information: the National Donor Family Council at the National Kidney Foundation, 800-622-9010.

New books from AHIMA

The American Health Information Management Association has released four new books:

  • "The Best of the Brief Encounter: An Ambulatory Care Primer," edited by Lynn Kuehn, MS, RRA, compiles articles from the newsletter on ambulatory care, Brief Encounter. The cost for nonmembers is $52.50.
  • "The Quality Resource Compendium 1996," edited by Patrice Spath, ART, compiles articles published in AHIMA's quality management newsletter. The cost for nonmembers is $35.
  • "Documentation Requirements for Acute Care Patient Record," by Barbara A. Glondys, RRA, serves as a reference for health information management professionals. The cost for nonmembers is $56.
  • "Documentation and Information Management in Home Care and Hospice Programs," by Susan C. Miller, MBA, RRA, features methods in developing information management systems, documenting patient records and ensuring patient confidentiality in home care and hospice settings. The cost for nonmembers is $50.40.

Information: 800-335-5535.

Patient information products

  • Palo Alto Medical Publishing has produced several new lines of patient information brochures on topics ranging from women's health to psychiatry. The new brochures cover topics like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, sleep apnea, attention deficit disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, panic disorders, schizophrenia and labyrinthitis, vertigo and Meniere's disease.

    The cost is 49 cents per brochure, and discounts are available for large orders. Information: 800-373-PAMP or 408-379-7267.

  • The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has produced a "meeting-in-a-box" set of educational materials health care professionals can use to help patients learn how to manage their asthma. The three-unit set costs $150. Information: 970-221-9165, e-mail aafasupgr@aol.com.
  • Milner-Fenwick Inc. has released two new patient education videos, "Stopping the Spread of HIV and AIDS" and "Atrial Fibrillation." Cost: $175. Information: 800-432-8433.
  • KeyRing Associates of Highland Park, N.J., is selling a new video that explains living wills and durable power of attorney for health care. "Understanding Advance Medical Directives" costs $17.95. Information: 800-841-3622.

Brochure gives tips for kicking the habit

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery has published a new patient information brochure filled with tips for patients trying to quit smoking. For a free copy of "Ready to Quit Smoking?" send a self-addressed, stamped, business-sized envelope to Quit Smoking, AAO-HNS, 1 Prince St., Alexandria, Va. 22314. Information: 703-836-4444.

Guidance for international travelers

"Health Information for International Travel" provides information on required vaccinations and recommended health measures for international travelers. The reference manual is published annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and costs $14. The publication is available at U.S. government bookstores and can be ordered by calling 202-512-1800; refer to stock number 017-023-00195-7.

New book, video on risk management

The second edition of the AMA/Specialty Society Medical Liability Project's book, "Risk Management Principles & Commentaries for the Medical Office," focuses on how to fix administrative shortcomings in medical practices that often contribute to malpractice charges.

The new edition, which costs $7.95, includes a chapter on managed care. It also covers contractual liabilities, cost-containment constraints on treatment and referral, and the growing responsibilities of physicians as coordinators of care.

The AMA is also offering a four-hour videotape to help physician office staff improve documentation and administrative procedures with an eye toward risk management. "Risk Factors in Medical Practice: Office Staff Communications" costs $139 ($99 for AMA members).

To order, call AMA Customer Service (800-621-8335) and request Order No. OP630195CH for the book and OP637894CH for the video.

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