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Meth Mouth

More About Meth Mouth and Teeth [MMT]

By Anonymous DEA Agent

Meth Mouth Teeth is severe tooth decay and tooth loss, as well as tooth fracture, acid erosion, and other oral problems, potentially symptomatic of extended use of the drug methamphetamine. The condition is thought to be caused by a combination of side effects of the drug and lifestyle factors, which may be present in long-term users.

However, the legitimacy of meth mouth as a unique condition has been questioned because of the similar effects of some other drugs on teeth. Images of diseased mouths are often used in anti-drug campaigns.

 ******

EDITOR’S NOTE: I do not know if this is a legitimate picture or not. But, I do suggest that we all “Just Say No to Drugs”. And; as a dental school drop out, I have an affinity for all pro-dentite colleagues.

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Need a New Career in Dentistry – Become a Consultant

Or – Maybe Just a Hobby

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

One might ask how much knowledge of dentistry is required before a person is qualified to call oneself a “dental practice management consultant” – beyond maybe being able to spell HIPAA with only one P, and Hippocrates with two.

Meet Jill Coon, Inc

An anonymous management consultant who works for Jill Coon, Inc of Florida posted this brave suggestion on the company Facebook today:

“Why not take 3 max anterior PA’s and 1 mandibular PA once a year with bitewings to check for caries in front teeth? We actually bill insurance for 3 PA’s not 4. Hygiene production just increased!”

My Translation 

Here is a translation of her question from dental-speak to English:

“Why don’t dentists take routine x-rays of front teeth like they do for back teeth, when doing so increases hygiene production and payments from the insurance companies?”

[Dental team members, please sit on your hands for this one].

Bonus Round 

Bonus question: Can anyone think of any reason why one might not want additional routine x-rays – even if insurance pays for it at 100% (of usual and customary fees)?

Hint: It can be trickier to avoid irradiating the thyroid when taking anterior x-rays than while taking routine bitewing x-rays.

Assessment 

I’ll be back soon with the tricky opinion I will have posted on Jill Coon, Inc Facebook. It will be her first if nobody beats me to it.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/West-Palm-Beach-FL/Jill-Coon-Inc/125510596754?v=wall&ref=mf

Conclusion

Is there anyone out there with almost no knowledge of dental care who wants to match wits with a sales rep for a consulting company that “specializes in dental insurance billing and treatment planning for dental practices”?

Industry Indignation Index: 47

How about it – HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, JD?

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BCBS-TX Must Talk to D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

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Do My Manners Bother Anyone?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS ]

I posted this on the Dallas Morning News Website in response to an article about BCBSTX downsizing due to the economy.

http://economywatchblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/08/health-care-losing-jobs.html

1-darrellpruittDear Jason Roberson – Reporter – The Dallas Morning News 

As a dentist on the east side of Fort Worth whose patients have been harmed by BCBSTX, I say the fewer clients BCBSTX has, the safer Texans are. Changing dentists causes fillings.

Of HIPAA and the NPI Number

It wouldn’t surprise me that until about now, you and most of your readers have never heard of the HIPAA-mandated National Provider Identifier (NPI) number. And it probably doesn’t make much sense to you when I say that it is BCBSTX policy not to process their clients’ dental claims if they come from a dentist who doesn’t have an NPI number, like me. BCBSTX’s horrible policy has not only decreased my number of new patients, but the arbitrary rule also caused a couple of dozen of my long-term patients – who were perfectly satisfied in the comfortable dental home I provided them – to leave me for dentists with NPI numbers. Please note that the 10 digit identification number does nothing improve the quality of care. It only benefits BCBSTX. And did I mention that changing dentists causes fillings?

Not Accepting Assignment 

Even in these tough economic times, I choose to no longer accept BCBSTX. My ethics-based decision hurts me financially, but that is how much I sincerely despise BCBSTX for its NPI policy. Unless Texas Health CEO Doug Hawthorne or a spokeswoman for BCBSTX like Margaret Jarvis or Ross Blackstone mans up to their deception really soon, I hope to help the wheels fall off of BCBSTX as an example to other insensitive CEOs who harm my patients by selling their clueless bosses discount dental plans with no quality control. Special bastards like me proudly volunteer to clean up the neighborhood, just for grins. As a matter of fact, a few sports fans and I are hoping one of the recently laid off BCBSTX employees is named Wilma, who on May 1, 2008 was known as an “overall supervisor” for BCBSTX in the dental claims department. I’m certain that CEO Hawthorne knows her. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he is unconcerned about dentistry.

A Pubic Invitation 

I am publicly inviting Wilma to come forward – even as whistleblower if she still has her job – and share with us the motivation behind the alleged lies she told me during our conversation. Even now, as I listen to our recording, I consider it an entertaining and educational conversation between two people who both know a BCBSTX overall supervisor who brought talking points to an argument. Nevertheless, even while trapped between honesty and her job, Wilma proved to be a devoted employee – willing to risk her own reputation for her boss. The way she sticks with defending a defenseless policy, at times it sounds like the NPI number actually makes sense to her. Then you think, “Surely she is smarter than that.”

Assessment 

I know that coming at the end of one of the strangest comments you have ever attracted, it is appropriately ballsy that I say that there’s a new sheriff in town, Jason. And disrespect around my niche is no longer tolerated if I have anything to do with it. I’ll shoot holes in BCBSTX to help it crash sooner if it will cause fewer Texans experience unnecessary dentistry. How important to one’s oral and systemic health is continuity of care when virtually all oral problems are caused by neglect? Is BCBSTX dental insurance worth the hidden price? Thank you for the opportunity to air out my opinion.

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Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas on Facebook

Let’s Have Some Fun!

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Hello, sports fans. Have you missed me? It’s been about five days since I posted a comment that didn’t follow an article authored by someone else.

My last one was “Pruitt’s Platform – Introduction to an Adventure.” It’s unusual for me to go so long between posting stand-alone pieces, but after putting that title to my introduction, and compounding the challenge by promising to never push out bland stuff, I set my standard high. It took me a few days, but I finally found a deserving old target on a brand new venue that I think will hold your interest. BCBSTX and I have an intense history, so I assume they charged someone anonymous and shy to follow everything I write. I welcome you, whoever you are. Yea, you. The one hiding in the dark corner, justifiably afraid to utter a peep. Keep your pointed head down, friend, and try not to wet your nice pants.

BCBSTX, you should be disappointed to learn that I found your Facebook account. Even for a fat dinosaur, you are an especially thick and slow-moving easy target. I recommend you just surrender now to transparency and start the confessions and reparations before the lawsuits become huge and the lawyers profit more from your collapse than the Texan dental patients you’ve harmed. Let me remind you that the repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act is just around the corner, and we all know about the rumor (started by me) that there are attorneys across the nation just waiting to file class-action lawsuits against BCBS for unfair business practices, including restraint of trade for using the NPI number to drive satisfied patients from dental homes they preferred. Finally, BCBSTX will be subject to the same anti-trust laws as the doctors they fear, and I am here to make sure BCBSTX feels the pain. Look what happened to Dell Computer when that huge dinosaur was surrounded by Jeff Jarvis and Dell Hell. The game I’m playing with you is a more nimble, improved variation of Dell Hell, using fewer vulgar words.

You should know by now you are too fat and too slow to hide from me and the sports fans I bring. Nevertheless, I am always fair in telling my targets my goals before I go on to accomplish them. Here is what I am going to do to you, BCBSTX: I intend to pull your anonymous, unaccountable butt out into the wide open for everyone to see – especially the lawmakers you lobby and support with generous donations. Did you know that there is a rumor (also started by me) that some of those same lawmakers you consider friends are aware of most of what I write on the same day I post it? The transparency I bring will eventually trap and crush you, BCBSTX. Or, you can immediately come out and meet me for an open discussion about the inevitable reformation of dental insurance in Texas – putting humble, obedient bureaucrats with names under the direct control of dentists and patients. And of course, it is understood that in order to save Texas citizens millions of dollars in healthcare expense, there will be drastic downsizing of BCBSTX Dental, just like Delta Dental and ADA/IDM are experiencing right now. That means no more bonuses and no more frivolous pursuits like publishing, printing and mailing to Texas dentists those expensive self-serving brochures joyfully titled “NPI Times.” I suggest you get your resumes in order, BCBSTX employees. I’m very good at having my way with archaic business models. Others I have attacked, such as ADA/IDM and Delta Dental, are clearly failing. Coincidence? Perhaps you’d like to tell yourself that when I undermine your support every time you come up for air. Why not send out your sharpest PR specialists? Oh please, would you? Also, equip them with committee-approved talking points that I’ll hang around their necks for a long time.

When I discovered that BCBSTX had a Twitter account, I started asking anonymous employees of BCBSTX about their new NPI number requirement for processing dental claims – even for dentists who have no contractual relationship with the company. But rather than answer a dentist’s questions about their dental policy (incredibly stupid, BCBSTX), the leaders of the command and control company who can no longer command or control their own socks, responded by blocking me from following them. That was irresponsible, childish behavior from one of the largest and most powerful dental insurance companies in the state. Shouldn’t it be important for BCBSTX to respect dentists who must deal with their cumbersome rules?

At a time when managed care dental companies like BCBSTX are lobbying Congress hard to preserve their taxation subsidy, I think it is important for lawmakers to recognize that these huge stakeholders neglect the welfare of those they serve: the principles – dentists and their patients. We are your constituents who count, Congress. Not discount dentistry brokers whose products will not sell in the free market without mandates and taxpayer assistance – simply because they are lousy products.

If BCBSTX had not opened a Facebook account, I would not have opened one myself. I discovered my fat, defenseless opponent when I googlesearched “BCBSTX” the other day. On their first page was the link “What is the NPI number of BCBSTX? – Facebook.” It features a client’s naïve, insignificant question about the NPI number, and it opened the door for my informed, significant one which I copied below, as well as posted on Twitter.

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=93487018652&topic=8926

By the way, I was disappointed to see that my comment “BCBS-TX Dental Insurance is Rude to everyone,” which I posted on the Medical Executive-Post over three months ago, was no longer on BCBSTX’s first page. It was their third hit for weeks. But since I hadn’t given the comment a bump lately, it has dropped down to the bottom of their second page. Can’t have that! If you don’t mind, please click once or more on the following link and stay there a few minutes. That way, it will push the blunt criticism back up onto BCBSTX’s first page and will once again warn potential clients of BCBSTX’s poor business ethics. If you’re going to be there anyway, why not go ahead and read the sucker? You could find it interesting. Lots of people do.

https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/bcbs-tx-dental-insurance-is-rude-to-everyone/

As I wrap up this comment, I’ll share with you with the question I left BCBSTX on Facebook almost 6 hours ago concerning their NPI policy. I don’t think Facebook was a good idea for BCBSTX leaders. Sit back and watch me get someone fired today.

Dear BCBSTX:

I would like to point out to readers more information about the NPI number which you are not likely to share. If you have BCBSTX dental insurance, and your dentist does not have an NPI number, BCBSTX will not process your dental claim and the premiums you will have paid to BCBSTX will become unearned profit for BCBSTX.

Is that true, BCBS-TX? Yes or no?

Conclusion

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Independent Medical Practitioner as Solo Primary Care Surrogate

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Doctors Facing a Bleak Future Business and Financial Planning Model

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]dem2

According to Physicians News, on March 19, 2009, the demand for family physicians is growing. Proposals for health system reform focus on increasing the number of primary care physicians in America. Yet, despite these trends, the number of future physicians who chose family medicine dipped this year, according to the 2009 National Resident Matching Program. What gives?

NRMP

The National Resident Matching Program [NRMP] recently announced that a total of 2,329 graduating medical students matched to family medicine training programs. This is a decrease in total student matches from 2008, when 2,404 family medicine residency positions were filled.

Primary Care Demand Explodes

Meanwhile, demand for primary care physicians continues to skyrocket. For example, in its most recent recruitment survey, Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruiting company, reported primary care physician search assignments had more than doubled from 341 in 2003 to 848 last year. 

The Decline of Solo Medical Practitioners

Regular readers and subscribers to this Medical Executive- Post are aware of the declining number of solo medical practitioners; we have been sounding the alarm here, in our books, journal, speaking engagements and elsewhere for years now.dhimc-book4

In fact, the statistic that we often cite is that more than 40% of the nation’s physicians are employed doctors; not employers as in the past. This business model shift has occurred over the past decade or so, and has accelerated of late. The decline in solo and independent doctors has occurred elsewhere as well, but much more slowly [i.e., dentistry, podiatry and osteopathy] as these specialties have been somewhat isolated from the traditional allopathic mainstream.

Going forward, this solitary model seems to be a good thing, and a fortunate result of the un-intended consequence of previously keeping these folks out of the healthcare mainstream.

The Decline of Independent Medical Practitioners

Now, in the March 2009 issue of Healthcare Finance News, we learn that the number of hospital owned physician practices has been climbing over the last four years, according to the Medical Group Management Association [MGMA]. Think: PHOs back-in-the-day. ho-journal3

And, while this trend only marginally affects patients and patient care, it is quite disruptive to physicians, their families, personal wealth accumulation, retirement and estate planning endeavors.

For example, according to Professor Hope Rachel Hetico, RN, MHA, CMP™ of our firm www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

“The professional good-will valuation component of a medical practice is being decimated. Today, some practices are being bought and sold for tangible asset value, only.

Assessment

Therefore, allow me to identify this emerging trend which suggests independent medical practice as reflective of solo primary medical care. In other words, as independence goes the way of the “dodo-bird”, so goes primary care practitioners precisely at a time when the later is needed more than the former.

Why? Employed doctors stay that way by making money for their employer and hospital-bosses. Specialists make more money than primary care doctors. So, if you want to stay an employed doctor; which specialty would you pursue?

Answer: The NRMP class this year spoke out loud and clear. Any specialty but primary care!

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CCHIT is Prejudiced and Lacks Diversity – An Indictment Until Proven Otherwise

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Searching for “The Lost Medical Providers”

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, former CPHQ™, CMP™]

[Publisher-in-Chief]

[Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, former CPHQ™, CMP™]

[Managing Editor]

dave-and-hope6Right up! Let us state that, sans increased transparency and requested information to the contrary, we believe that CCHIT is a prejudiced and seriously non-diverse outfit. No. we don’t mean racial prejudice or any lacking in ethnic or gender diversity – We mean professional diversity. Why and how did this happen – we don’t know, but please allow us to explain our thought process in arriving at this opinion and formal indictment?

CCHIT Website

According to its website, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology [CCHIT] was founded to help physicians answer key questions about eHR software, such as: a) what components should be included, b) where do you begin with over 200 products in the ambulatory eHR market?

Link: http://www.cchit.org/index.asp

Certification Commission Composition

CCHIT is a private nonprofit organization accelerating the adoption of robust, interoperable health information technology [HIT] by creating a credible, efficient certification process.

The Commission is made up of at least two representatives each from the provider, payer, and vendor stakeholder groups, and others from stakeholder groups that include safety net providers, health care consumers, public health agencies, quality improvement organizations, clinical researchers, standards development and informatics experts and government agencies.

Currently, CHIT is composed of these commissioners, serving in two-year staggered terms:

  • Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD [Chairman]
  • Abha Agrawal, MD, FACP
  • Steve Arnold, MD, MS, MBA, CPE
  • Karen Bell, MD
  • Richard Benoit
  • Sarah T. Corley, MD, FACP
  • John F. Derr, RPh
  • Linda Hogan
  • Michael L. Kappel
  • Joy G. Keeler, MBA, FHIMSS
  • Jennifer Laughlin, MBA, RHIA
  • Christopher MacManus
  • David Merritt
  • Susan R. Miller, RN, FACMPE
  • James Morrow, MD
  • Rick Ratliff
  • David A. Ross, ScD
  • Don Rucker, MD
  • Michael Ubl
  • Jon White, MD
  • Andrew Wiesenthal, MD

What about the “Others”

Now, here’s the rub; what about the other medical professionals? The list above contains allopathic physicians, a nurse and a pharmacist; and that’s fine. But, where are the DDSs, DPMs, DOs and ODs? Should these folks assume they are included as CCHIT stakeholders, as most all dentists and even the ADA seemingly – and apparently erroneously – believed?

Link: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

See CCHIT’s answer below, when one intrepid [fearless or naïve] dentist inquired about his profession’s inclusion in the CCHIT initiative.

Dr. Pruitt,

“As noted in my email to you, the Commission has not yet taken up the development of certification for software products used in dentistry. While one cannot deny the value of dental information in the management of health, it is not currently within the scope of the Commission’s work to undertake the development of criteria and test scripts that inspect the data compatibility between physician office eHRs and dentistry records. As our work progresses, it may become a future consideration.”

Regards

-S

CCHIT 

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/the-case-against-inter-operable-ehrs/#comments

According to our best estimates, CCHIT left out input from these medical professionals:

  • Osteopaths: 50,000
  • Dentists: 150,000
  • Podiatrists: 10,000
  • Optometrists: 40,000

And so, we ask, where are the:

”two representatives each from the provider … groups”

 as stated and mandated, in their own CCHIT charter? Where is the outrage from the American Osteopathic Association [AOA], American Podiatric Medical Association [APMA], American Optometric Association [AOA], and the American Dental Association [ADA]? Are these folks disenfranchised; and do they know it, or not?

Board of Governors – Public Comments Desired

The CCHIT website does list Dr. Brian Foresman; DO, MS as a physician juror in 2006. And, the complete list is included below for your review: 

The CCHIT regularly requests public comment. The public comment period for ePrescribing Security, for example, is currently open until March 4, 2009.

Industry Indignation Index: 65

Hopefully, we can shame – “flame with emails” – CCHIT into finally including dentists, podiatrists, more osteopaths and optometrists in this initiative and in their larger enterprise wide goals, objectives and plans.

Link: http://www.cchit.org/participate/public-comment

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Please call, write, fax, email or send in your opinions to CCHIT and tell them what you think! Mark, we give you benefit-of-doubt and are on your side, but what did we miss; do tell? What sort of bureaucrat apparently overlooked these full, and limited-licensed, medical practitioners with their special skills; or do they actually have direct-indirect input? Don’t they count for anything? Where is the diversity? Where is the outrage? Stop the prejudice! Call us, let’s do lunch and discuss.

Full disclosure: We are members of AHIMA, HIMSS, MS-HUG and SUNSHINE. We just released the Dictionary of Health Information Technology and Security, with Foreword by Chief Medical Information Officer Richard J. Mata; MD MS MS-CIS, of Johns Hopkins University and the second edition of the Business of Medical Practice with Foreword by Ahmad Hashem; MD PhD, who was the Global Productivity Manager for the Microsoft Healthcare Solutions Group at the time: www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com

Additional References

1. Getting “the CCHIT Question” Wrong, by

Link: http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/the_health_care_blog/2009/02/getting-the-cchit-question-wrong.html#comments

2. CCHIT dissolved involuntarily in April 2008 for failure to file annual report in Illinois.

Link: http://www.hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2009/02/cchit-dissolved-involuntarily-in-april.html

Conclusion

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Collaborative Dental Health 2.0 [Part One of a Three Part Series]

Consumerism is the Hippocratic Way

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt1

The Appearance of DR. Oogle

By September of 2005, when I finally worked up enough courage to ask a patient to post a review for me on DR. Oogle (doctoroogle.com) – a web-based patient referral site – my dental practice had been invisible and struggling for a few years and was still disappearing.  It was the most discouraging period in my career. 

Following the Golden Rule 

In spite of my efforts to always treat my patients like I would want to be treated myself, I was headed for either managed care, which I consider to be an unethical model for dentistry, or bankruptcy. The progressive betrayal of my profession and my patients by leaders in dentistry spawned bitterness and high blood pressure that I still suffer today – even though my practice has fully recovered. My hygienist and I are currently booked almost solid for the next two weeks. I know also that in the next three, misfortune could arise. I have no idea what is in store for dentistry in tomorrow’s economy. If I was in the business of selling advice, or DR. Oogle, I would probably be tempted to radiate much more confidence than I truly feel.

Back in the Day 

When I graduated from dental school in 1982, I was reassured by dentists I respected that one’s practice location is not important if one works hard to consistently provide patients with one’s best efforts.  Dr. Earl Estep, a practice development guru from Athens, Texas, taught me decades ago that word-of-mouth is much more effective for attracting patients who are ready to spend money than advertisements provide, and that one should never forget to ask for referrals, even if it feels “unprofessional.”  This is still solid advice.  For example, two days ago, in a special marketing feature on Jim Du Molin’s The Wealthy Dentist Blog, Chris Barnard suggested,

“Enlist your existing patients in your practice success. Actively seek those all-important word of mouth referrals from your patients.”

Link: http://www.thewealthydentist.com/blog/727/practice-marketing-in-down-times

Even though Barnard doesn’t mention patient referral sites such as DR. Oogle, his other ideas which may or may not fit one’s practice image include quarterly letters, $10 gas cards and iPod raffles in order to

“… Let them know who you are beyond that white lab coat …!”

Just Do it … and Ask

I personally think it is much less complicated, as well as much cheaper, to simply select a recently satisfied patient, look the person in the eye and ask,

“Would you mind putting in a good word for me on this website?” 

Handing a patient a business card with the website handwritten on it becomes easier to do after the first dozen or so, but don’t expect immediate results. My success rate was around 45% when I was actively pursuing favors. When I reached 90 reviews after around nine months, I quit pestering my patients with requests for reviews. Active participation in a patient referral site also provides the incentive to improve one’s practice by motivating both dentists and staff to become wrapped up in treating each patient with extra-special care in the hopes of a nice review. Before anyone knows it, personalized, attentive care becomes a habit, I have found. Other than those who sell ads and party favors, everyone wins.

Enter Dr. Oogle 

I came across DR. Oogle in March 2005. The open-source patient satisfaction measurement application was born in San Francisco at the very end of the .com bust, and had been actively gathering word-of-mouth data about dentists for over two years when I began observing its progress.  By then, DR. Oogle had already accumulated an impressive amount of information concerning patient satisfaction with many of nation’s dentists. I suspect that today, Dr. Oogle’s volume of data is insurmountable by potential competitors. 

Akin to Wikipedia 

I found DR Oogle’s revolutionary marketing concept fascinating simply because like Wikipedia, it is not supported by advertising – thus avoiding a tremendous built-in and transparent bias. The company’s profits are derived solely from dentists like me who agree to pay reasonable monthly fees for the opportunity to participate in the application by displaying their customers’ opinions for public scrutiny. It is what I call playing to win rather than playing not to lose. Five months before I purchased the service, I published an article about DR. Oogle in The Twelfth Night, the monthly newsletter of my local dental society. I believe mine was the first mention of such web-based patient referral sites in any dental publication. Here is the article:

Patient Driven Referral Services

[From: “The Twelfth Night” April, 2005]

In a small community people as a general rule know a lot more about their neighbors than do people in a city.  They also know a lot more about the doctors and dentists in town since there are only a few.  It is fairly common to talk to neighbors and friends to get opinions on who is the best dentist, who to avoid, who is the cheapest, who has the most up to date equipment. 

In a small community, as well as in a city, even a neighbor’s recommendation carries more weight than a dentist’s paid advertisement.  I would imagine that sales of 1 800 Dentist subscriptions are significantly lower in rural Texas than in the metropolitan areas on a per capita basis.  The dentists in small communities know that they are far too easy to find to need to spend money for a referral service or for much advertisement at all. 

Well, Fort Worth and cities across the nation are becoming smaller dental communities because of the internet.  If any of you have googled your name, you may have picked up a hit by one or more patient driven referral services (PDRS). And, if you have not done this lately, you should.  There is a good possibility that the information about your practice location may contain errors.  But more importantly, you may read something pleasingly flattering or terribly humbling about your practice written by a patient you saw last week.

Dr. Oogle is presently the most popular PDRS. A patient’s comments about his or her dentist is posted only after the patient accepts the terms of the agreement; which are that the patient is neither a relative nor an employee of the dentist and that the patient is not otherwise being compensated for the review. The website also requires an authentic e-mail address and other personal information for verification purposes.

There is a filtering system in place in which employees of Dr. Oogle reject (at their discretion) comments which are too good or too bad to be credible.  And there are other ways in which dentists can handle bad reviews and are described on their website. There is, I suppose, always room for an attorney or two if the other attempts at removing a bad review fail.

But, if the PDRS’s survive the lawsuits, and if the first review which comes up under your name happens to be a real stinker written by an easily disgruntled and fervently vindictive patient (I think his name is Fred. You probably know him as he changes dentists often), and if you cannot get it otherwise removed, perhaps you should bury it under as many good reviews as you can encourage your patients to submit. This reaction, not surprisingly, is the reaction recommended by Dr. Oogle.  In fact, they also recommend that we routinely ask our patients to submit reviews to them.  I imagine that there are already dentists who have had cards printed for this purpose. 

Like it or not, our patients are being given more power in the marketing of our practices and their influence is growing. Dr. Oogle’s first reviews of dentists in the greater Ft. Worth area occurred in September of ’04. By the first of February, 5½ months later, there were only 18 dentists who had been reviewed by at least one patient.  As of today, one month later (March 7), there are 16 more. By the time this is published the number could be close to 50. Who knows how many reviews will be posted a year from now if the public perceives value in this kind of information. Many more of us will be listed as either good or bad dentists; legitimately or not. 

Regardless of the outcome of Dr. Oogle’s venture into dentistry, the fact that the public has a thirst for “unbiased” sources of information concerning our practices tells us that more than ever before we have to treat each patient as our most important source of new business or a disappointed patient could soon become a significant obstacle for growth.

Another good thing is that a patient who has to choose a dentist from a list at least soon may have some guidance; other than the fact that his insurance company thinks they are all equally swell.

Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

[April 2005]

Investigative Reporting 

Since writing the unprecedented article, I have performed numerous simple investigations comparing DR. Oogle’s ratings to dentists’ names on preferred provider lists for various cities.  Invariably, the vast majority of the dentists who sign managed care contracts are found in the bottom 50% of the ratings. Sorry if I hurt some colleagues’ feelings, but that is cold fact. Anyone with a preferred provider list can confirm it. I suspect it has been done thousands of times by many anxious people holding new annual lists of strangers’ names in just the last year. Alert dentists should note that humans are choosy when it comes to trusting someone to use sharp, rotating instruments in their mouths. Dentistry is not like buying a can of beans as discount brokers would have their naïve and trusting clients believe, and most importantly, ethics are not for free.

Apart from the common sense rule that a purchaser of intricate handwork to exacting tolerances generally gets what the dental patient pays for, what else causes fee-for-service dentists to be generally favored over preferred providers?  I think it has to do with hunger.  If one’s meals arrive daily without effort, one forgets how to fish.

Managed care and preferred provider lists protect contract dentists from the naturally cleansing free-market principles taught by economist Adam Smith centuries ago. The beauty of competition in the marketplace occurs every time a dis-satisfied patient shops for a new dentist. When reliable information about patient satisfaction is available, quality is rewarded and encouraged in the neighborhood. Free-market capitalism works as reliably as classical operant conditioning in the best of possible worlds.

Assessment 

It is my opinion that there has always been something dishonest and un-American about discount dentistry with no quality control. I think we need to expose the unfair and unethical managed care business model to free-market forces even if it involves the calculated promotion of a simple, foolproof scheme for dentists interested in graduating from preferred provider lists. Those who feel trapped can begin their escape immediately by preparing some business cards for their managed care dental patients who by now are easily impressed by compassion. I’ll share more in Part 2.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. If US dental patients are lucky, Web 2.0 transparency arrived just in time. Consumerism rules naturally.

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Dentists, HIPAA, IT and Reform

Healthcare Reform and Presidential Candidates 

[Surprising Obama and McCain]

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

pruitt

Some readers of the Medical Executive-Post may wonder why a dentist’s opinions on healthcare reform should be given space on a website that is about the personal business, management, finance and economics of healthcare. 

Like Lab Animals

Even though dentistry is only around 5% of the healthcare market; when it comes to government/insurance regulation using the one-size-fits-all micromanagement model of MBAs and politicians – dentists are your lab animals. So, hear me squeal! 

HIPAA Hurts

Our nation’s leaders could learn sobering lessons about how their rules affect healthcare by observing how they affect dentists.  As businesses, dental practices are naturally much less complicated than medical practices. 

For one thing, dentists maintain only a few thousand active patient charts, whereas family physicians may have three to ten-thousand.  This is because physicians see forty or more patients a day.  Dentists, whose work involves intricate, but routine hands-on procedures in unpredictable mouths, may see ten patients in a busy day – eighteen if one counts checking hygiene patients. 

Sans Bottlenecks 

In dentistry, patient bottlenecks have never occurred in the clinical setting, even when burdened by modern, strategically complicated insurance hoops.  It takes just as long today to pull a tooth as it did in 1960. 

Actually, considering the OSHA mandate of the late ‘80s, defensive medicine and non-productive paperwork such as the meaningless HIPAA privacy release that patients have signed without reading since 2003, dentistry takes a lot more time than it used to. 

Thank goodness patients never take the time to read what they sign or dentistry would take even longer.

Pulling teeth will never be faster than it was a hundred years ago when x-rays, as well as surgical-grade alloys became available. Back then dentists were never delayed by the wait for onset of anesthesia. For a closely related reason, experienced patients didn’t want dentists piddling around indecisively using cold steel. 

Of Peg-Boards and Ledgers 

For decades, the busiest of medical and dental practices ran efficiently using only pegboards, ledger cards and lots of carbon paper, yet the staff still seemed to have time to ask patients about their families. The business of dentistry is so simple that even today some dentists choose to run their practices without the aid of a computer at all – thereby eliminating the unproductive expense of being a covered entity. 

Always remember this: there is nothing holding down the cost of being HIPAA compliant, and doctors with small, three-and-a-half employee businesses will be held to the same standards as hospitals with large staffs and a fondness for busywork – busywork that demands department budgets that include overtime pay.  HIPAA fits a sole-proprietor dental practice like socks on a rooster. 

The Economics of Choice 

Here is another important difference.  For a considerable amount of dental care, one might delay the purchase of a home entertainment center to chew comfortably.  For serious medical care, one might forgo a home to stay alive.  Almost all acute, health-threatening dental emergencies can be quickly solved in an outpatient manner with a simple extraction that costs less than $200, and available in almost any neighborhood.

HIPAA

From a dentist’s perspective, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] was never about portability.  Oh, I could tell you stories; couldn’t we all.  And, considering how many electronic health records have been fumbled under HIPAA, accountability is a cruel joke as well.  That leaves the original 1996 HIPAA Rule stripped down to HIA – the Health Insurance Act; transparency at last.

The Four Cornerstones

A year ago, President George Bush signed an Executive Order that centered on four “cornerstone” goals to help bring about a systematic approach for measuring quality and value in health care, and for making that information publicly available. They are:

  • Connecting the system through the adoption of interoperable health information technology;
  • Measuring and making available results and outcomes on the quality of health care delivery;
  • Measuring-Transparency and making available information on the price of health care items and services; and,
  • Aligning incentives so payers, providers and patients benefit when all are focused on achieving the best care-value at the lowest unit-cost

The last three cornerstones, Measuring, Measuring-Transparency and Aligning are dependent on providers volunteering for the first – Connecting.  Even though dentists were intended to be included in Bush’s plans for healthcare reform, connecting with dentists never happened – especially for dentists who did not volunteer for an NPI number – which gives stakeholders a legal right to Measure, Measure-Transparency and Align. 

Or, as my dad, a furniture maker, used to say, “Measure twice, cut once (and for your own sake do not get personally involved in the machinery).”

Assessment

As a dentist who has observed physicians methodically lose control of doctor-patient relationships to stakeholders who hold payments for ransom, I say that if this is interoperability, I hope it never connects to my sheet metal file cabinets full of paper.  HIPAA has nothing to offer but expense and liability.

Mark my words. History will show that HIPAA was exposed as a national failure in dentistry first, and that the presidential candidates still don’t know. 

Won’t presidential candidates Barack H. Obama and John S. McCain be surprised! 

Conclusion

Politicians never consider dentistry. Though it is unfortunate and very expensive, it is nothing new. Stick around. I have other issues, as well, and am not bashful. Of course, your thoughts, opinions and comments are appreciated.

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