Physician Practice Roundup—6 steps to avoiding a MIPS penalty; Doctors' long sleeves may spread germs

Male doctor in white lab coat
If you want to know exactly how to avoid a penalty under MIPS, one physicians organization has a six-step example. (Getty/Saklakova)

How physicians can avoid a MIPS penalty

Although it’s past the deadline for physicians to receive a payment incentive under MIPS, there’s still time to avoid paying a penalty. One physician group has put together a step-by-step example of how to submit your data. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has made it easier to comply in the first year of the MACRA program, allowing physicians and practices to avoid a 4% quality penalty by reporting one measure for one patient under the pick-your-pace option.

The American Gastroenterological Association has created a six-step example using one of the many quality measures. Practices can follow the simple steps to report a measure, starting with how to complete a CMS 1500 billing form with codes that a practice can then submit as a claim. Practices can use the example to help them even if they choose a different measure since after identifying the measure and codes, the same steps apply. 

At last week’s Medical Group Management Association meeting, CMS official Kate Goodrich, M.D., urged members to report on one measure and avoid the penalty. (American Gastroenterological Association article)

Doctors: Roll up your sleeves, please

Add another study to those that have shown doctors and other healthcare professionals can spread germs on their clothing. Based on a new study, doctors may want to roll up the sleeves of their white coats or other clothing. The study suggests long sleeves may become contaminated with viruses or other pathogens that could then be transmitted to patients.

Researchers presented the study at an infectious disease conference in San Diego earlier this month. The United Kingdom already recommends a “bare below the elbow” policy in its hospitals. In the U.S., the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has said healthcare facilities might consider adoption of a policy that would have healthcare workers wear short sleeves. (Scientific American article)

Star quality ratings aren’t shining for many primary care doctors

More than one in five primary care doctors are rated only one star by patients, according to an analysis of Vitals physician ratings. The analysis showed that 23% of primary care physicians and OB-GYNs, along with 22% of pediatricians, have a cumulative one-star rating, the lowest a doctor can be rated on the physician search site. 

More than one-third of primary care physicians have poor ratings (one or two stars) from patients, according to the study that examined physicians across the largest 50 cities in the U.S. While patients may use the online ratings in their search for a new doctor, they should do so with caution. A study earlier this year said the reviews can be a poor indicator of clinical performance. (Release)

Some smokers get a breathalyzer test before they get surgery

Patients in one county in England may have to quit smoking or lose weight before they are allowed to undergo non-emergency surgeries via the National Health Service. Doctors in Hertfordshire will go so far as to order smokers to undergo breathalyzer tests to measure for carbon monoxide levels to ensure they have really kicked the habit before referring them for nonurgent surgeries.

Officials will also require obese patients to cut their weight by 10% over nine months or reduce their body mass index to less than 30 before being referred for surgery. More than a third of counties in England have similar policies about smokers, but it’s believed this is the first time patients must undergo a breathalyzer test to ensure compliance. (The Guardian article

Evidence reveals patient who filed malpractice suit against Emory made up the story

A woman who filed a lawsuit alleging that a surgeon left a camera in her body during transplant surgery made up the story. Lawyers for the woman, a former patient at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, dropped the complaint. The hospital’s attorney said no cameras are used in such surgeries despite the fact the patient claimed a camera turned up in her torso during an exam at the hospital and required another surgery to remove it. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution article