Ask the Expert with Barry Craig | January 2013

How about that? We beat the Mayan predictions and are still here! Welcome to 2013, the year of major political, economic, and healthcare changes.

What can we do as the medical community to protect healthcare and the private practitioner setting?

1. Keep our cost low – Reduce expenditures as much as possible. Comparison shop for the items we consume in the medical field.

2. Use your voice – Write your congressmen, the president, local officials, etc. and let them know how you feel. Websites like give you an avenue to let your voice be heard.

3. Stay informed – I know we are distracted with Snookie having a baby, reruns of Friends, etc., but let’s keep our ear to the ground to stay current on news related to healthcare.

4.”Bulletproof” your office – Perform internal audits on your charges, billing tickets, CPT coding, etc. Find the problems and fix them before an outside audit does. Insurance companies have stepped up their audits in hopes of recovering payments; don’t be one of their success stories.

There are cries of “The sky is falling!”, relating to healthcare in this country. According to one study, healthcare premiums have risen an average of 24% nationwide. This means the patient will be rationing their healthcare spending. They will shop for the best doctor, the doctor that can see them the fastest, the doctor that can diagnose them the quickest, etc. This is the time to make your office shine, to be the best.

Here is a selection of the questions I have received over the past few weeks:

We are moving to an EMR and I will have to manually input lab results into the patient record. I am worried that stuff will get put in wrong when the days are hectic and busy. What can I do to prevent errors?

If your lab uses automated analyzers, check with your EMR company and see if the instrument can be interfaced with the EMR and send the results straight to the patient record. You can also double check the EMR results you entered against your lab log as an audit. Pull a sampling of patients weekly and check your lab records against the EMR records.

I make my own diluted bleach solution for cleaning in the lab. Lately I have noticed that the surfaces look duller, not cleaner. Any suggestions?

Diluted bleach is murder on plastics. Most user manuals for analyzers, instruments, and medical devices recommend against diluted bleach for cleaning. The plastic breaks down, becomes discolored, and begins to flake. Also, if you are making your own solution, I bet it is “industrial strength”. Look for cleaners that use the phrase “safe on plastics” or something similar.

I got written up for using my cellphone at work in the lab. I just make a couple of calls a day and I can’t see it as a big deal. What do you think?

You’re right, it is not a big deal. It is a HUGE deal.

Cell phones have become so ingrained for some people that they carry them virtually every waking hour, including at work. Cell phone usage in the workplace can cause real problems because of noise levels and lost productivity. Employees engaged in personal cell phone conversations or using their cell phones to check social networking sites are wasting their employers' time. A few calls a day times 15 employees can be several hours of lost time for employers. One study showed that the average employee only works 6.5 hours of an 8 hour shift. That is 1.5 hours they are paid to talk on the phone or surf the web. Not a good use of your boss’ money or time. In this economy, everyone should be finding ways to increase productivity, to become more valuable as an employee, not less valuable. Courts are upholding rulings where employees have been terminated for cellphone use or internet use while on the job. As one judge put it, “It is not really a civil matter, but a criminal one, as the lost time amounts to theft from the employer.”

If you were paying someone to watch your children and they left them alone for hours while playing on the internet, etc., you would not be happily handing them their money. In fact, you would probably never use that person again to watch your kids.

We watch more than children. In the medical office, we are entrusted with the care of sick, injured, or, sometimes, even dying patients. They deserve our time, focus, and attention without distractions.