The “Selling-Out” of a Profession [Dentistry]?

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Dentistry …?

[By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS]

1-darrellpruittSeveral years ago, a president-elect of the American Dental Association proclaimed, “The electronic health record may not be the result of changes of our choice. They are going to be mandated. No one is going to ask, ‘Do you want to do this?’ No, it’s going to be, ‘You have to do this.’” (ADA News, October 2008).

Looking back, it is easy to recognize the ADA’s renegade capitulation to HHS as a warning sign of things to come.

The ADA is the same national healthcare institution whose leaders joined Delta Dental in persuading dentists to volunteer for HIPAA’s NPI numbers – never revealing what they are to be used for. It’s the same not-for-profit Chicago corporation which continues to protect non-dues revenue by misleading the nation about the “savings and convenience” of EHRs in dentistry. Among all healthcare organizations, the ADA is alone in their enthusiasm for EHRs and Meaningful Use requirements.

And to top it off, the ADA leadership has progressively become less accessible by the community it serves – NEVER entering into open discussions of urgent dental issues on the internet, even to the extent of ending its commitment to answering dental questions for visitors to Dr. Oz’s Sharecare.com. It’s only dentistry for crying out loud!

As a matter of fact, Dr. Maxine Feinberg, the new ADA President, recently suggested in an interview with the ADA’s Judy Jakush that telephone conversations are “The best kept secret of the ADA which members don’t understand.” What?

Dr. Feinberg: “The best-kept secret is that if you have a problem or complaint, you will likely walk away with a positive experience. And, on the rare occasion that the staff can’t help you, there is a good chance that you will speak to Dr. Kathy O’Loughlin, the executive director. That’s amazing customer service.”

***

Insightful or clueless dentist?

***

What’s not to understand? I understand that ADA membership numbers have taken a hit over the last few years, but nevertheless, the dues of a little over 150,000 dentists still help pay the salaries of ADA employees. That’s a lot of phone calls that will have to be transferred to the right person (the first time), scheduled to call back later or be completely ignored. Isn’t email, or even the US Mail a better idea? Or is lousy communication (unaccountability) with dentists and patients the goal?

About that NPI number

How do you feel about the ADA leading the effort to assess and report your value to your community without ever stepping into your office or talking with a satisfied patient? When you volunteered for your National Provider Identifier at the insistence of the ADA and Delta Dental, you agreed to CMS terms. What? Nobody mentioned that?:

“Spread the mission of the DQA – The DQA, formed in 2008 through a request from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is comprised of multiple stakeholders from across the oral health community who are committed to development of consensus-based quality measures.” By Kelly Soderlund for the ADA News, November 3, 2014.

Does “multiple stakeholders” sound as costly to you as it does to me, Doc? I say we already have too many stakeholders. What about the principals (dentists and their patients) who pay the stakeholders’ bills?

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eHRs

***

Does anyone disagree that DQA looks like the ADA’s desperate mission creep for cash? With the chronic drop in membership, the Chicago corporation has turned to vigorous pursuit of non-dues revenue – probably in the form of federal grants and stimulus money from HHS. The ADA (which prefers clumsy communication via telephone), is asking state and local dental leaders to put their own personal credibility at risk by persuading uninformed dentists to unquestioningly accept multiple stakeholders’ assessment of their value to society – just like clueless dentists cooperated in the NPI effort.

Dr. David Schirmer, chair of the DQA’s education committee, tells ADA News: “Eventually, all of dentistry will need to understand quality measures. But before we reach our grass roots membership, we need our leaders in dentistry to understand.” He adds, “I’m challenging those leaders to pave the way for their younger colleagues and help them understand the long-term impact this will have on dentistry.”

ADA Editor Soderlund: “The DQA has taken the lead on developing quality measures within oral health care. These measures touch every practicing dentist in the United States, and with dentistry, how it’s modeled and how it’s financed changes in the future — specifically as a result of the Affordable Care Act — they’ll become even more prevalent. The mission of the DQA is to advance performance measurement as a means to improve oral health, patient care and safety through a consensus-building process.”

“— specifically as a result of the Affordable Care Act —“ Since you never respond, ADA, how do we know you haven’t sold us out once again for taxpayers’ money?

Assessment

If it’s difficult for the ADA to hold onto membership now, just wait until the nation’s dentists figure out that Obamacare cannot give everyone A’s on their internet report cards. This means the majority of dentists are going to be pissed at the ADA for their bad grades, no matter what.

Conclusion

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Journal of the American Dental Association [Letter to the Editor]

ADA Image Tarnished?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt]

Dear Editor,  

This is a sincere letter which I am sure you will agree should be published in the October 2009 edition of the JADA. Today is July 19, 2009. I am allowing for the six weeks minimum time it requires for letters to appear in print following their selection for publication. It will be posted on the Internet immediately. In spite of this, I trust you will eventually agree to publish it in spite of your archaic rules. Otherwise, by November, history could show that the editor of the JADA arguably denied representation of dental patients’ interests at a most critical time in the history of the profession. That would be regrettable for your own professional reputation as well as for the JADA’s. As an ADA member, if my concerns are ignored, I will hold you publicly accountable for an explanation for a long time.

Public Laundry

From now on, we will agree to wash our laundry in public because otherwise it doesn’t always come clean. You can call the pressure I bring unprofessional if you want, but following the ADA News’ public exhibition of their shoddy ethics this week, it would be foolish to use my methods as an excuse to deny my access to membership. As I am certain you are aware, there were three revisions of “ADA/idm to phase out service” on ADA News Online (7/10, 7/13 and 7/16). I not only welcome a wide-open public discussion about ethics in journalism with representatives of the JADA, but I encourage it. We both know that the ADA needs clean laundry now more than ever before in its history.

ADA Business Enterprises, Inc.

For members who haven’t heard, the 2 ½ year old joint venture of our ADA Business Enterprises, Inc. (ADABEI) with Intelligent Dental Marketing – a Utah-based private business – fell apart in late spring of this year. Months later, our ADA leaders are still less than transparent with membership about what went wrong. I’ve been in business long enough to know that if mistakes by employees are not revealed and discussed, they are bound to happen again and again. And, it’s not like the leaders of the ADA were not warned. They just didn’t take heed. By late 2007, many knowledgeable people involved in the dental industry easily recognized the faults in the partnership between our non-profit professional organization and a for-profit Utah advertising company. In hindsight, anyone can see that ADA/IDM’s slogan, “Image is everything,” clearly betrays an attitude inconsistent with both the mission of the ADA and the Hippocratic Oath. Nevertheless, even the spirit of the slogan was regretfully adopted by the leaders of the ADA’s Business Enterprises, Inc. Now it is the image of the entire ADA that is suffering the damage.

ADABEI

I personally began questioning the accountability of the tricky ADA/IDM business model over two years ago when the profits from ADABEI had officials excited about avoiding the need to raise membership dues last year. Not unexpectedly, in the atmosphere of euphoria, nobody in Chicago wanted to acknowledge the concerns of a handful of alert members. We were cast aside as troublemakers. So how critical is the risk? With massive, unprecedented health care legislation imminent, this is the worst time imaginable for our stoic, image-conscious officers to lead us to nation-wide embarrassment.

Following the Money

The surrender to such temptations for leaders of non-profit organizations is not unprecedented. Do you know why the dues for the American Association of Retired People (AARP) have been kept so low? Not unlike the ADA, the non-profit AARP reaps profits from insurance policies and other products that its leaders sell to membership – even using misleading ads in AARP dues-supported publications. However, unlike dues money, vendor “kickbacks” don’t depend on accountability to members. A few years ago, the profits derived from agreements with vendors predictably became the lifeblood for AARP’s self-perpetuating bureaucracy – eventually influencing their lobbying efforts. Since non-profits like the AARP and the ADA are traditionally respected by lawmakers who like huge campaign donations, a non-profit entity’s lobbyists can be tempted to quietly represent vendors’ interests at members’ expense. Sometimes they get caught.

Lost Confidence

Almost a year ago, the AARP lost valuable member confidence when the organization was forced to suspend sales of “limited benefit” health plans backed by UnitedHealth Group (of Ingenix fame). Sen. Chuck Grassley said the plans which leave policyholders vulnerable to tens of thousands of dollars in costs were sold by the AARP to naïve and trusting members using misleading marketing tricks – not unlike those used in the ADA’s promotion of ADA/IDM. Sen. Grassley sent a detailed letter to CEO Bill Novelli demanding answers to questions about health insurance plans promoted to over a million dues-paying AARP members. Grassley told USA Today reporter Julie Appleby that “Insurance is supposed to limit your exposure to the potentially high cost of a serious illness and these plans do the opposite.” (Nov 7 2008).

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-11-07-aarp-insurance_N.htm

Is AARP-level accountability as good as it gets?

I say no. Attention ADA members – It is my opinion that our leaders are losing the control of our professional organization. The recent failure of ADA/IDM isn’t the first glaring sign of trouble in Headquarters. Over a year ago, the executive director, Dr. James Bramson, was suddenly fired with no explanation. In fact, then President Dr. Mark Feldman commanded that the reasons for the firing will not be disclosed. Obediently, ADA leaders have so far maintained firm control of the top secret information which if released could somehow endanger dental patients (?). Because Bramson’s severance pay came from my dues and not out of Dr. Feldman’s pocket, I think I deserve to know more details. Otherwise, this mistake could happen again and again.

The ADA/IDM disaster is also not the only ADABEI embarrassment I see on the horizon. It is my opinion that CareCredit is also showing signs of silent desperation. On July 9, the officials of the wholly-owned ADA subsidiary purchased an ad on dentalblogs.com titled “Press Release: CareCredit Adds 24-Month, No-Interest [sic] Payment Plan” (no byline).

http://www.dentalblogs.com/archives/administrator/press-release-carecredit-adds-24-month-no-interst-payment-plan/

Even though I approve of the benevolence in the idea of extending credit to those with worsening dental problems – especially during these hard financial times for patients – the anonymous CareCredit (ADA) representative who posted the ad failed to respond to my timely and important question: “If the Red Flags Rule is not delayed for the third time in three weeks, how will it affect those who offer Care Credit?”

Assessment

Nor did he or she respond to my follow up response on July 13. “On July 9 at 4:54 pm, I submitted a sincere question concerning how the Red Flags Rules will affect ADA members who sign up for CareCredit. Instead of posting it with the promise of an answer, you regretfully chose to censor an ADA member. Today, July 13, I have a second and third question: Why did you ignore my first one and who is your boss?”

Conclusion

So far, I’m still waiting for responses to all three questions. I trust you will treat my concerns with more respect, Editor.

Conclusion

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Avi Baumstein and HIPAA Compliancy

A Ten-Step Process

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt

HIPAA inspections are coming. Are you still computerized? If so, are you prepared? The fines are steep if a dentist’s [optometrist, podiatrist, allopath or osteopath’s] computer is hacked and he or she is found to be not in compliance.

About Avi Baumstein

Avi Baumstein is an information security analyst at the University of Florida’s Health Science Center in Gainesville. He posted an article recently; on InformationWeek titled “Time to Get Serious about HIPAA.” Baumstein is one expert who should know.

Link: Ten Step Process

http://www.informationweek.com/news/industry/health-care/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=214600332&pgno=1&queryText=&isPrev=

Mr. Baumstein notes that in October, the HHS inspector general issued a report that was sharply critical of CMS (Medicare and Medicaid) for not enforcing HIPAA security. The embarrassing dope-slap of CMS leadership causes Baumstein and other experts in the security industry to anticipate more “proactive enforcement” (unannounced inspections) in the next year. 

From his article, I am led to believe that the last prerequisite for meaningful action to enforce security is a tax-paying and otherwise acceptable nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Whoever Obama finally digs up [Kathy Sibelius] I think providers are in for significant changes. 

For example, it will be the Secretary who will ultimately decide if HIPAA inspections will be performed by new federal employees or PriceWaterhouseCoopers personnel – which was the former President’s administration’s “market approach” to helping the GDP by outsourcing policing duties, as well as accountability, to favored big businesses. (For those who are sensitive about political affiliations and become upset with me for saying unflattering things about your heroes, please don’t feel too hurt.  I’m a bi-partisan critic for natural reasons).

The ADA’s imaginary playing field and toy soldiers

“The electronic health record may not be the result of changes of our choice. They are going to be mandated. No one is going to ask, ‘Do you want to do this?’ No, it’s going to be, ‘You have to do this.’ That’s why we absolutely need the profession to be represented in the discussions about EHR to make sure our ideas are enacted to the greatest extent possible.”

ADA President-Elect Dr. John S. Findley,

In-house interview ADA News

October 7, 2008

In spite of President Findley’s manicured and traditional cause-I-say-so sound bite, the actual invisibility of ADA leadership in healthcare IT matters clearly hints that whatever happens in Obama’s healthcare reform, dentists’ and patients’ concerns stand little hope of being adequately represented by ADA representatives. 

For example, when I recently contacted CCHIT to ask about EHRs in dentistry, I was told that I was one of the first to even mention dentistry to the private and reclusive non-profit EHR certification club. I think that chunk of unexpected news blows a huge hole in President Findley’s boat. Want to see something hilariously scary in a darkly humorous way? The President’s campaign motto this time last year was “Findley for the future.” Get it?

In spite of the silent neglect of dentists’ interests by dental leaders from the top down, I would like to proclaim that there is accidental hope that future HIPAA inspectors will know more about dentistry than the jobless OSHA hired in the late 1980s during the HIV panic. I heard a rumor back then that OSHA sent an inspector to a dental office who didn’t know the difference between a microwave and an autoclave.

Panic and Urgency

Panic, a favored US government bureaucratic response, occurred when OSHA leaders found themselves suddenly under pressure from Congress over a mysterious disease that was raging out of control. Since immediate action was demanded, even if it was irrelevant and wasteful, OSHA leadership was so busy chasing shadows that it was hiring almost anyone just to cover their lower backs. Eventually, the panic subsided and yielded to a low level of common sense, thanks in large part to the intervention of the late Rep. Dr. Charlie Norwood of Georgia – a dentist and a courageous statesman. Nevertheless, because of the momentum of institutional panic, millions of healthcare dollars have been wasted on 99% superstition; incredible? Consider this.

In the last two decades, how many lives have been saved by covering dental chairs with plastic between patients? Now, how much does the effort raise dentists’ fees – thereby lowering accessibility and increasing disease and suffering among Americans? Furthermore, after each dental patient is released, the “contaminated” sheet of petroleum-based polyethylene is thrown away. I ask this: Are the reasons for inevitable environmental problems caused by regularly adding non-biodegradable plastic to the city dump based on evidence-based science? 

Of course not! This and other related acts of foolishness are nothing but lingering, costly superstition – now accepted as standard of care without proof of effectiveness. Here is how such absurdity happens: Some of those weekend miracles quickly hired by OSHA in the ‘80s went on to become prosperous and influential consultants with lots of ideas.

Since the US government is prone to panic followed much too quickly by careless and expensive overkill, national responses to adversity often stimulate lots of employment – evidence of need be damned. The OSHA surge of the 80s followed the AIDS scare. More recently, coming on the heels of the banking collapse, auditing has become one of the fastest growing fields in the industry. The feds cannot hire people with accounting skills fast enough. I contend that one should expect that for reasons and attitudes similar to those surrounding the increased funding for OSHA, it follows that news of frightening breaches of EHRs by the hundreds of thousands at a time has created a new nidus of power in a fresh, enthusiastic administration, as well as an enormous employment opportunity for anyone with knowledge of dentistry – like super-hygienists.

A hazy glimpse of the future and a promise to tie all this together soon

This brings us to a fanciful peek over the edge of the event horizon in dentistry. At the same time that HIPAA inspections of dental offices appear unavoidable, there is currently a turf war between fully licensed dentists and expanded duty “super-hygienists” who wish to be able to practice independently – limiting their invasive work to only easy fillings and simple extractions that in their assessment will not turn complicated.

Link: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Turf Wars

This kind of war has been fought before, and physicians lost. Nurse-practitioners annexed physician turf like Sudetenland, and they are still grabbing lebensraum. CMS loves it. 

However, dentistry is different. It is my opinion that because of dental patients’ very personal reasons that include under-rated motivation from primal fear and terror, they will shun almost-dentists almost immediately – leaving graduates with huge student loan payments and lots of unused knowledge about dentistry.

Furthermore, I predict that when super-hygienists consider the expense of finishing out and leasing space at a shopping mall or department store, in addition to monthly loan payments to cover the price of dental equipment, or perhaps even the buy-in price to an insurance-sponsored dental franchise, a few will be discouraged from their initial intention to increase accessibility to dental care by lowering cost and quality.  

I think reality will cause a few super-hygienists to be readily lured from their initial goals upon entering two-year junior college programs that taught them nomenclature and the easy parts of doing dentistry. Unless they agreed to work in underserved areas in exchange for paid tuition, some will consider the benefits of working for commission for the US government as HIPAA inspectors. And later, the most successful of these will have the opportunity to continue their careers as HIPAA consultants with lots of ideas.

Are you following me so far? In conclusion, within two years, instead of real-dentists and almost-dentists being faced with uninformed HIPAA inspectors like OSHA’s shock-and-awe weekend miracle crews of the ‘80s, there will accidentally be thousands of nomenclature-savvy super-hygienists graduating across the nation looking for work about the time an acceptable HHS nominee finds his or her stride. What a story! 

Did I ever tell you that I once did a short stint as a screenplay writer? 

I guess I am being a little bit silly concerning super-hygienists, but do you see how all these pieces of history can conceivably come together at a time when the nation couldn’t be more vulnerable to wasting money on foolishness? Common sense about patients’ security is just not that common in Washington DC, and the absurdity of HIPAA is so great that the stunned silence it evokes actually causes the enforcement of folly to fit in well with the traditional Democratic tendencies of using big government to handle all possible contingencies caused by human frailties – even if that means micromanaging everyone. Who needs that? 

Every day, I am increasingly thankful that my office is not computerized. The sheet-metal box that contains my patients’ ledger cards does not have a USB port. Preparation for inspection is tricky by design.

Link: www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Assessment

Baumstein concedes that preparing for a HIPAA inspection is difficult because the law is intentionally vague:

“One goal of HIPAA was to be a one-size-fits-all, technology-neutral regulation.” 

Incredible; when you read the ten obligations Baumstein says a dentist must complete to be compliant with a vague mandate, you too may want to go back to a pegboard system – carbon paper and all.  

It seems to me that in 2003 or so, someone in the ADA Department of Dental Informatics should have warned ADA leadership about the obvious fact that as long as there is a dependable supply of cheap carbon paper in the nation, HIPAA enforcement has the potential to drive computers smoothly out of dentistry. Instead, there was silence followed by increased funding for the department’s budget, and the game was on. By 2005, at the urging of the former administration and healthcare IT stakeholder Newt Gingrich, the ADA News was posting articles pushing ADA members to quickly volunteer for irreversible NPI numbers for no good reason.  A trusting majority of members dutifully followed the tainted command. I am saddened by the loss few yet comprehend.

Link: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. In bringing a close to this contiguous, here is something some may find interesting about the University of Florida, where Avi Baumstein works. Do you remember the 330,000 dental patient records that were hacked this fall from the Dental School located in Gainesville, Florida?  You guessed it; same college town – same health science center

And, as of last week that the dental school was still hemorrhaging patient data to who knows where. I bet by now, Baumstein knows more about HIPAA and dentistry than anyone in the nation How about you? 

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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