American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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Practice briefs

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

New certification exam for coders

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), a group that represents clinical coders, billing managers, claims managers and medical records experts, is offering a new exam for billing and coding clerks.

Coders who pass the new exam can designate themselves as a certified coding specialist-physician based (CCS-P). The certification is designed to show that billing clerks can accurately code and bill for physician services, increasing the timeliness of reimbursement and reducing errors.

The new certification was designed with the participation of the AMA, the Medical Group Management Association and the Society for Clinical Coding. Information: AHIMA, 312-787-2672.

Medicare participation rate exceeds 80%

More doctors than ever—82.4%—now participate in Medicare, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Participating providers agree to accept the Medicare fee schedule amounts as payment in full.

Services provided by participating providers now account for more than 92% of Medicare-allowed charges for physician services. To encourage participation, Medicare pays its participating providers 5% more than it pays nonparticipating physicians. Participating physicians also can use toll-free lines to submit claims electronically.

As of January 1997, states with the highest participation rates included Alabama and North Dakota (93%) and Kansas and Nevada (92%). States with participation rates below 70% included Idaho (67.6%), Louisiana (64.6%) and New Jersey (62.8%).

OTC information now in Spanish

The National Consumers League has published brochures on common over-the-counter (OTC) medications for Spanish-speaking patients.

Titled "Tengo Cuidado Con" or "Take Care With," the brochures provide information on how to use nonprescription, OTC medications properly. Three of six planned brochures are now available—on pain, cough and cold, and children's medications. Single copies of the series of three cost $1; bulk copies are also available. Information: 202-835-3323.

Prostate cancer resource guide released

The American Foundation for Urologic Disease (AFUD) has released a new guide to help prostate cancer patients cope with their disease. "AFUD Prostate Cancer Resources Guide" includes tips from prostate cancer survivors, questions that prostate cancer patients should ask their doctors and information on insurance coverage. The guide, which is designed for patients, their families and health care providers, costs $5. Information: 410-468-1800.

Turn to the Internet for practice guidelines

If you are looking for a practice guideline, starting next year you will be able to turn to a new National Guideline Clearinghouse on the Internet being set up by the federal Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) in conjunction with the AMA and the American Association of Health Plans.

The clearinghouse, scheduled to launch in Fall 1998, will contain standardized information about thousands of guidelines, including the methodology used to create them, and compare the recommendations of guidelines on similar topics, summarizing the major areas of agreement and disagreement, according to AHCPR.

Beware false solicitations for Yellow Pages ads

Physicians are being warned to watch out for bogus versions of the Walking Fingers Yellow Pages logo. The logo is often used by phony Yellow Pages directories to trick unsuspecting advertisers into paying for a listing they never ordered, according to the national, nonprofit Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA).

The false solicitors frequently prey on physicians, who are among the top 10 largest Yellow Pages advertisers. While the solicitors may actually publish a directory, distribution is often limited to the advertisers themselves and public libraries, hotels, gas stations and restaurants, according to the YPPA. One such nationwide directory features the Walking Fingers logo on the cover but consists of just five photocopied pages of physicians in different states including New York, Missouri and Oregon.

To avoid buying or paying for an ad in one of these directories, the YPPA suggests examining bills for telephone directory ads carefully and make sure they're for advertising that you have ordered. To report suspicious bills or for more information, call the YPPA Hotline at 800-841-0639.

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