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Clarifying Some NPI Number Mis-Understandings

The NPI Number: What is is – How it works?

By Carol S. Miller RN, MBA

The National Provider Identifier (NPI) is a HIPAA Administrative Simplification Standard that provides a unique identification for covered health care providers, all health plans and health care clearinghouses.  The NPI must be used in administrative and financial transactions adopted under HIPAA and with one identifying number will simplify security and allow greater protection or encryption of the provider number.  The NPI can be used to identify the health care provider on prescriptions, COB between health care plans, inpatient medical record systems, program integrity files, and other areas.

Dependent on his/her medical practice, the provider can obtain an individual or group NPI; however, there are situations where an individual NPI number is required such as with the submission of pharmacy and lab claims.  The NPI remains with the provider regardless of job or location change.  NPI will eventually be the standard identifier for all e-prescribing under Medicare Part D.

A Ten Digit Number

The NPI is a ten digit, intelligence-free numeric identifier with a check digit in the last position to help detect keying errors.  If there is a security breach, the number in itself cannot identify the protected health organization.  The use of one identifier with a check digit simplifies encryption of this number when transmitted electronically and thereby enhances security.

On HIPPA

HIPAA also requires that employers have standard national numbers that identify them on standard transactions.  The Employer Identification Number (EIN), issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was selected as the identifier for employers.  This number is used as a Federal tax identification number for the means of identifying any business entity and for the purpose of reporting employment taxes.  The EIN number should be protected as a social security number is.

ITL and NIST

Both the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are involved in the development of technical, physical, administrative, and management standards and guidelines for cost-effective security and privacy of sensitive unclassified information in federal computer systems.  These standards and guidelines can be applied to the management of medical IT.

Assessment

Additional reference material for NPI can be found at: www.cms.gov/nationalprovidentstand.

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The Texas Dental Association Board Must Face the Truth

More on NPI Numbers

[By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS]

Dear Past TDA Board Members

I have some questions similar to the ones that got me suspended from the TDA a year ago: Who among you can defend your decision to persuade trusting TDA members to volunteer for National Provider Identifier (NPI) numbers?

And, why did you give up on the effort while BCBSTX continues to unfairly force dentists who aren’t even HIPAA covered entities to adopt the identifiers?

If you’re still unaware that everyone can see TDA leaders allowed themselves to be manipulated by stakeholders like BCBSTX, prepare yourself. It won’t be long before at least a few TDA members blame you personally for the bad things I warned would come to dentists with NPI numbers. Since the identifier does nothing to improve the quality of care, its promotion cannot be reconciled with the mission statement of the TDA, leaders. I hope angry dentists throughout the state seek the names of those of you who misled them.

A Non-Profit 

BCBSTX is a non-profit whose handsome profits are paid by taxpayers. The healthcare parasite sells dental insurance to theUSgovernment for federal employees. In their letter to me that I’ve attached, you can see for yourself that along with BCBSTX’s stated refusal to process any of their clients’ dental claims that come from my office, it says in capital letters, “DO NOT FORWARD THIS NOTIFICATION TO THE MEMBER!” How proud does it make you feel to know BCBSTX defines your level of ethics, TDA Board? Two years ago, your Director of Membership censored from the TDA Facebook this dentist’s criticism of BCBSTX’s NPI demands. Sometimes, you bozos are idiots.

I have no contractual relationship with BCBSTX, so as soon as could, I defied BCBSTX’s order and sent their client the letter – making sure to point out that BCBSTX ordered me to keep it secret from her. As you might expect, she’s pissed at BCBSTX! I hope she looks into a class action lawsuit. I bet BCBSTX has been secretly extorting their customers’ dentists by the thousands … but then, do you even care, TDA? What did BCBSTX offer the TDA that caused you to betray dentists and patients who used to have faith in your honesty?

BCBSTX is a Tyrant, and the TDA is an Enabler

There’s more: As a favor to our patients, my office has traditionally called their insurers for coverage information so that those who purchased the dental benefits will know how much of the bill they are responsible for before we start treatment. It’s called transparency.

Today, my office manager informed me that according to alerts she has received from insurers, if I don’t “volunteer” for a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number by 2012, my office will be deprived of the right to product information about BCBSTX’s plans. How does that help anyone, TDA?

Assessment 

Were you aware that this was the purpose of the NPI number when you pushed TDA members to sign up? Do you even care? Because of your silence inTexas’ dental community, it’s really hard to tell.

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On Practice-Based Research Networks

In Dentistry – if only it were that easy

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

I like the concept of a Practice-Based Research Network for teasing out latent miracles from dentalcare data, but I’m afraid any hope of networking success is limited by insurmountable cost and safety concerns of EDRs that few in the dental industry are yet willing to recognize.

Dr. Schleyer 

Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Dental Informatics, University of Pittsburgh published “The feasibility of an electronic dental practice-based research network” a few days ago.

“The long-term goal of our research is to use data from EDRs to improve patient care and its outcomes. The objective of this project is to develop a generalizable method for extracting EDR data for practice-based clinical research, using Dentrix as the test system.

In our first specific aim, we will determine the utilization of clinical data elements useful for research by practitioners by mining the electronic dental records of 100 Dentrix users and generating summary statistics about patient documentation patterns by data field.

The second specific aim will develop a technical Infrastructure for extracting data from Dentrix and integrating them with manually collected research data. The main outcome of this project will be the electronic Dental Practice-Based Research Network (ePBRN), a generalizable method for extracting clinical data from EDRs and reusing them for practice-based research. This project is a first step in making the increasing amount of electronic clinical data available for improving research, clinical care and patient outcomes.”

-Abstract: September 30, 2011

http://halley.exp.sis.pitt.edu/comet/presentColloquium.do?col_id=2348

I agree with Dr. Schleyer. However, until dentists perceive value in EDRs instead of liabilities, the dreams that he and I share about real-time, evidence-based research on an internet platform will be nothing more than just a cool-sounding fantasy of a handful of geeky dentists hoping to get a better peek at an obscure healthcare niche.

On Transparency 

Transparency in dentistry, rather than NPI numbers, has a better chance of revealing cost-effective solutions for painful and even life-threatening health problems. In addition, nothing is holding down the cost of HIPAA compliance, and data breaches from healthcare facilities – including dental offices – are only becoming more common.

Assessment 

Sidestep liability. De-identify now. If a dentist’s EDR system is breached, yet it contains no Protected Health Information [PHI], who cares?

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Is Informatics the The Curse of Healthcare Reform?

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Medical Coding Complications and Greed

[By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS]

Coding complications in government healthcare ALWAYS favor the house — CMS guarantees it with lawsuits and whistleblower rewards that could attract dishonest employees. Are you careful who you hire?

Complications 

Complications in healthcare informatics – including 5-digit CPT® code mistakes as well as foul-ups that involve physicians’ “voluntary” 10-digit National Provider Identifier numbers – ALWAYS grant insurers more time to pay past-due bills owed to their clients and their clients’ doctors.

Call me Cynical 

Call me cynical, but if interest rates climb ever higher as predicted, watch for unexplained, proportional increases in coding errors to help fund insurance CFOs’ bonuses while raising the cost of healthcare even more without improving value. Is it any wonder why Americans don’t get the quality of healthcare we purchase compared to citizens in other countries? Tax-payers in my neighborhood are begging for in-network providers who put their patients’ interests ahead of insurers’ as much as allowed by insurers’ self-serving rules – without committing fraud. As a general rule, healthcare stakeholders accommodate parasites more than principals.

CPT® Codes and Patient Care 

Accurate CPT® coding may have nothing to do with patient care, but CMS makes it nevertheless important to physicians. Whereas the most innocent NPI foul-ups reliably delay payment and never turn out well for providers, the new fraud and abuse provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [ACA] can cause an innocent coding mistake on a Medicare claim to land the doc in court with charges of fraud depending on the quality of employees one hires – but only if the error favors the provider and not the payer. In June, David Burda posted “Attorney tells audience to brace for a storm of whistle-blower lawsuits” on ModernHealthcare.com.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20100623/NEWS/306209989/-1

Of Whistle-Blower Lawsuits

Burda reports that healthcare attorney Joanne Judge, a partner with Stevens & Lee in Reading, Pa., predicts a significant increase in whistle-blower lawsuits simply because the new law makes it far too easy for a dishonest employee to file an unwarranted lawsuit. No longer is there a requirement for the whistleblower, who stands to win money from his or her patriotic effort, to directly witness the crime. That kind of idea could catch on in this economy.

computer-hardware1

“The new law also converts accidental Medicare overpayments to providers into potential false claims, Judge said. She said the law considers an overpayment as fraud if the overpayment isn’t identified by the provider and returned to the government within 60 days. Judge said that will require providers to beef up their internal billing systems to detect an overpayment as soon as possible and then send Medicare back its money.”

Assessment 

What can possibly go wrong with that plan? Thorough background checks on all new employees is increasingly important, doc. For my employment security issues, I’ve learned to depend on Richard at Investigation Resource Service out of Dallas. He’s never let me down (This is not a paid ad).

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Kathleen Sebelius Please Pay Attention to Dr. Darrell Pruitt

Deferred Investment [An Incentive to Access]

By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS

On Friday, the editor of the Chicago Dental Society’s [CDS] blog “Open Wide” posted a progressive, brief article titled, “State of Illinois offers incentive for dentists to treat Medicaid patients” (no byline).

http://chicagodentalsociety.blogspot.com/2009/12/state-of-illinois-offers-incentive-for.html

CDS says that last week, Governor Pat Quinn signed a law which allows Illinois dentists who treat Medicaid patients to accept payment deposited into a tax deferred investment portfolio instead of the traditional delayed, unpredictable payments that offer no tax advantages – only headaches.

Illinois Governor Quinn is a vast improvement over his predecessor. What was his name? He’s gone on to become a TV personality …. Oh yeah. Blagojevich!

I don’t know about you, but for me, Quinn’s incentive to access could offer not only more relief for those who cannot afford dental care in Texas, but it could also be a more or less painless way for dentists to fund IRAs – rather than having to do it at the last minute like I’ll do in a few months – just like every year. Instead of having an IRA hanging over my head, all I would have to do is donate my skills to help a few more people every now and then. That’s noble, charitable duty, friends – even with the Quinn incentive.

I especially respect current Medicaid dentists who work for nothing at all on the more profitable days.

To HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Pay attention. You only think you run the show.

The nations’ dentists you need aren’t being paid what they deserve, yet they put up with expensive and threatening CMS bureaucracy and struggle on – simply because they wish to ease suffering everyone else chooses to ignore.

Medicare dentists are American heroes to be sure. But let me warn you, Ms. Sebelius, they will turn on you hard and cold if you try to push them around. It’s time that you welcome real dentists to the bargaining table instead of ambitious ADA-approved stakeholders. You need us more than we need you, Ms. Sebelius. Forget the ADA. That is a foundation on which we can build … or not.

And this is for my stunned dentist colleagues in Texas who cross the street to ignore grandiose special bastards like me. Most of you detest the messy stuff I drag around, but nevertheless can’t stop watching from a safe distance. Rather than get your own hands messy, most of you simply pay the TDA to quietly and ineffectively hide or delay huge approaching problems. So what’s the trade-off? To remain “In the Loop,” you must obediently take up your differences with leadership in the approved, professional manner through designated ADA representatives. And. that’s so cute.

Now that you read about Quinn’s incentive, don’t you also hope that a TDA committee has already approved a draft of a deferred investment proposal to be offered to state lawmakers as soon as possible? After all, similar plans are already being tried in not only Illinois, but in four other states as well: Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Hope as we may, nimrods, I fear those in Austin who should be paying attention to legislative opportunities such as this only heard about Quinn’s incentive to access law a minute or so ago at best.

Of Face Book Accounts

Both the TDA and the ADA desperately need functional Facebook accounts like Chicago Dental Society’s. By the way, it is the CDS which will be hosting their annual mid-winter dental conference in Chicago – reliably a tremendous meeting. This year it is Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 25-27, 2010 in the McCormick Place West Building.

http://www.cds.org/mwm_2010/

The TDA’s Facebook Wall is pristine white and graffiti-ready, and the spray paint is free to any artist who walks by. Not unexpectedly, it’s a mess. Nobody is joining, and whoever is in charge of managing the site is busy deleting unacceptable comments from a jerk who has no respect for anyone. (It’s not me). The TDA Facebook is in trouble, and it has been suggested that it should be shut down. It is indeed an embarrassment.

Assessment

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Here’s something we’ll all laugh about later: The one dentist in Texas who could have sent the rogue artist on down the road (me), was kicked off for badmouthing BCBSTX and the NPI number as well as 13 other listed allegations, including posting pornography. I’ll let the TDA Director of Membership explain that and the other allegations if you are curious. I was not provided access to the evidence on which the sudden and uncontestable revocation of my TDA benefit was based. But there’s still hope because a friend of mine resented the way I was treated and complained to the TDA using the approved channels. That was 2 months ago. I wonder how well that one is progressing from the Austin City dump.

The ADA Facebook is no better. Over 1600 fans have piled up at the door waiting for the ADA’s grand opening, yet nothing is happening. What do you think is going on there?

If you’ve missed hearing from me for the last 2 weeks and have an inquisitive mind, I’ve been pursuing answers for such questions about ADA and TDA transparency on Twitter. They call me Proots.

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Don’t Tread on Me – Obama

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Bite Me – CMS

[By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Shy but proud Texas Dental Association leaders still direct employees to encourage members to volunteer for permanent, mandated National Provider Identifier numbers. Why? “Just ‘cause.”

As part of an agreement the TDA made with the state to help politicians out of a lawsuit they brought upon themselves for not providing adequate dental care for the poor in the state, TDA leaders followed someone’s bad advice to encourage Texas dentists to accept CHIP (Medicaid) – which requires dentists to have arbitrary 10 digit NPI numbers to participate.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the highest respect for dentists who treat the poor for pay that doesn’t even cover overhead. That is compassion to a fault – even before CMS investigators arrive with subpoenas based on vague, nuisance complaints from disappointed patients, disgruntled employees and hungry competitors. Getting even with rich, greedy, or otherwise mouthy dentists has never been easier because I’ve heard that CMS intends to investigate all complaints.

Yes, low pay is only part of the nasty package that TDA officials are officially discouraged from discussing with membership – even as they beg for us to sign up for CHIP and “do our part to return our debt to society by helping those who cannot care for themselves.” So who would dare question the reason for the faux sentiment expressed by a long string of TDA Presidents? That would be me.

There are simply so many other charitable ways of publicly and privately returning help to the community that don’t add to the risk of donating one’s skill. Even if one does not help local free clinics, how hard can it be to quietly give away care, Doc, in these hard times? It’s just between you and God anyway, isn’t it? One simply enters N/C in the fee column. Confidentially I sometimes get hugs that so far can be neither controlled nor taxed.

It appears to me that CMS is arguably more influential with TDA leaders than common TDA members like me. If I am correct, this means that dentistry is at risk of being overrun by authoritarian bureaucrats hired by ambitious politicians who often promise more than they can deliver before ducking accountability for earthly bad decisions. The business model even reminds me of the TDA’s.

So now that the TDA played its hand with regard to its fondness for BCBSTX and the NPI number, what does it mean for Texas dentists if Obama’s imminent “Public Plan Option” turns into “Medicaid for All” – as some naively hope and others justifiably fear? This week, the AMA gave its support to the Public Option. Will the ADA be next? 

Dentistry unhurried is value-added service. One cannot get rich at it, but it’s an honorable living.

Regardless of whether you approve of my tactless vitriol or not, I have to say that when it comes down to feeding my family, even this special bastard could be silenced if there is no longer a market on the east side of Fort Worth for dentistry unhurried. Especially if it meant a monthly visit by CMS inspectors like Dr. Annie Bukacek is going through right now. Like me, she also gives her patients the time they deserve. But unlike me, she doesn’t have time to pick fights with shy bullies who hide behind employees.

I’ll get to the physician’s story in a moment. But first, just how important are secrets to the leaders of the nation’s preeminent non-profit dental organization? It’s important enough that many in the ADA House of Delegates want the power to mete out punishment to fellow officers who cannot keep their mouths shut. Some of those we elected even want to make the sanctions retroactive to deal with colleagues who have already broken the traditional unwritten good ol’ boy code of stoic conduct. At the same time, the TDA is begging dentists in the state to run for ADA office – starting on the local level. Why do you think dentists in Texas don’t want to get involved? Nobody accepts delivery from the cluetrain in Austin. It probably stops there at least a couple of times each week day.

I copied below three of the ADA Delegates’ referred resolutions from Judy Jakush’s November 2 ADANews article, “Delegates vote on Association business matters,”

http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/pubs/adanews/adanewsarticle.asp?articleid=3821

1] Res. 70 states that if any member of the ADA, including delegation member, council, committee or task force member, or Board of Trustees member has been acknowledged as breaking the attorney-client privilege or executive session, that member is, at a minimum, barred from ever again participating in an attorney-client or executive session within the ADA. This shall include such acts which have been acknowledged as occurring prior to the enactment of this resolution.

2] Res. 67 would specify that candidates for elective or appointive officers may not have had any sanctions bestowed upon them by the Association. Also referred was Res. 67RC, which would direct that anyone found by the Committee on Credentials, Rules and Order to have violated his or her duties to the Association would be disqualified from holding elective or appointive office.

3] Res. 68 was referred to the Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs for report to the 2010 House with recommendations for Bylaws changes. The proposal calls for CEBJA to review the Bylaws and craft language that would define the mechanism for sanctions up to and including removal from office of a delegation member or Board of Trustee member if there is found to be cause for removal as shall be defined. That cause, at a minimum, should include those causes as delineated currently for council members. Res. 68 also calls for a method for fair and impartial hearings to be recommended and the establishment of an authorized House committee that can be held on an ad interim basis between annual sessions of the House of Delegates with authority to determine and impose any such sanctions deemed appropriate. 

Remember, the ADA is a non-profit, professional organization whose only purpose for existence is to serve dental patients through dentist members who support it with dues. When one reads these and other resolutions in Jakush’s article, it looks like ADA President Dr. Ron Tankersley is running the Pentagon. We’re only dentists for crying out loud!

Dr. Annie Bukacek’s 6-month battle with CMS

This morning I read what has turned out to be a popular article titled “Investigators descend on doctor,” written by Candace Chase, writing for the Daily Inter Lake which serves northwest Montana.

http://www.dailyinterlake.com/news/local_montana/article_d8cde54e-cc2d-11de-9ddd-001cc4c03286.html

“Dr. Annie Bukacek of Hosanna Health Care in Kalispell was surprised when a 30- to 40-foot-long command-post vehicle pulled up unannounced last week, along with a posse of state and federal health-care fraud investigators.”

“Bukacek points out that anyone – a disgruntled ex-employee or patient or someone who doesn’t like a physician’s looks or politics – could trigger an investigation and cost a physician as well as the government thousands of dollars.” 

I wonder what would happen if a dentist openly taunts CMS leaders? As I previously mentioned, it is Dr. Bukacek who claims, “They said they have to followup every allegation made.” 

When all American dentists are required to volunteer for NPI numbers and can no longer be legally paid in cash at the time of service, we’ll all be hung by an ADA-approved mistake of historic proportions. I suggest that ADA members take time right now to jot down names so that when judgment day inevitably arrives, one will be prepared to hold accountable the ADA employees who recommended the numbers. After reading how ADA leaders are hunkering down, it looks like going through employees will probably be the only way to touch the bosses they bravely try to shield.

Oh yeah. I posted the 5th of almost 30 comments that so far follow Candace Chase’s provocative article:

“Dr. Annie Bukacek’s experience is why as a US citizen in the land of the free, I simply refuse to do business with the US government. Bite me, CMS. Did you hear me? I said bite me!”

Assessment

It’s not likely that I’ll regret those words because I am powerless to stop myself from typing them anyway.

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ADA Opens a Facebook

Join Our Mailing List

Perhaps too Early?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Something strange has happened to www.DentalBlogs.com I think they have partially shut down their Facebook account. They no longer feature original articles such as those by Dr. Rhonda Savage and Ms. Linda Miles, and in the last couple of weeks, they eliminated their collection of photos. Now the site only features ads and press releases. Does anyone else wonder what happened? Sure you do! This is exciting.

Perhaps Re-Tooling 

Unless they are just re-tooling this weekend, I suspect that since their previous format was biased heavily in favor of advertising dollars in a tough economy, their funding simply dried up. Like so many other advertising-related careers, the dinosaur found it couldn’t compete in a 2.0 market.  Nevertheless, today I did learn something important from the DentalBlogs Wall: The ADA has opened a Facebook account.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/American-Dental-Association/32252997166?ref=mf

Such transparency is inspirational

When I announced this news on Twitter a few hours ago (“Proots”), neither the ADA nor the TDA had yet told membership. Yea, I scooped them on their in-house news. It happens all the time.  Naturally, I became a fan of the ADA Facebook. When I joined, there were already 1205 fans, even though the site is yet operational. I found that intriguing because it usually takes a long time for most FBs to attain 1200 fans – especially when all one can gather is the mission statement of the ADA’s newest Internet site.

My View 

Here’s what I see: About the time DentalBlogs laid off employees from their fully active Facebook, the ADA opened theirs (Gasp)! The ADA was well known to DentalBlogs because the ADA once advertised with them regularly. That is where I found an article about the ADA-approved CareCredit/GE that ended up causing problems for some people and entertainment for others. Let’s face it, friends. I just know that I’m not the only dentist in the nation with at least two burning questions. I bet at least 4 others are wondering who were the first seven fans to sign up for the ADA Facebook and Has Kim Volk, CEO of DDPA signed up yet?

Because the number of fans is rapidly piling up, such information from a few weeks (?) ago could soon be just too difficult to uncover from the fans list on the ADA site. It took a long time for me to scroll down through 1200 names – looking for those I recognize (Gasp)!

Scrolling Quickly, but Carelessly

I could have easily missed several easily recognizable names in contemporary dentistry, but as far as I can tell, not only was Delta Dental Plans Association CEO Kim E. Volk’s name not present in the list of 1200 fans, but there were very few names I recognized … and I’m sorry if I insulted anyone. I also did not see “Ron Tankersley” and other ADA officials’ names on the fans list. Didn’t the ADA try partial transparency like this once before? I may be wrong, but I think I played a role in shutting it down a few years ago with my persistent and still unanswered questions about the NPI number.

More Semi-Reliable Information

Here’s another bolus of semi-reliable information: I also quickly scrolled through DentalBlog’s list of 400 fans and did not notice an unusual amount of matches with the ADA Facebook fans list.

Those who dare to do so, might just ask, “So if the ADA fans didn’t come from dentalblogs, where did they come from?” I think one possibility is that the ADA effort has been in Beta and limited to a select group of people up until now. Doesn’t it seem strange that nobody is able to post anything? Did someone open the doors a few hours early? So who were the first 7 fans? No, you don’t have to scroll down to find out for yourself. I’ll tell you.

Who is John Hergert?

The first person to become a fan of the ADA Facebook account is named John Hergert from Chicago, Illinois.

2nd – Laurie Rich

3rd – Amy Lund

4th – Kelsey Majors

5th – Jessica Stevens

6th – Samantha Campbell

7th – Lina Kulkormi

I don’t recognize any of the seven, and I have not searched anyone’s name other than John Hergert’s – the first person to become a fan of the ADA Facebook. I found someone named John Hergert in Chicago, Illinois who is Associate Vice President at Lipman Hearne Inc. – an advertising agency.

http://www.spoke.com/info/p6JVgPy/JohnHERGERT.

Here is the bio of the person I only suspect is the first to become a fan of the ADA Facebook.

John Hergert’s Biography

John Hergert Associate Vice President John Hergert has a keen understanding of what it takes to capture and hold the attention of marketing audiences via innovative marketing techniques. Formerly Associate Director of Marketing Communications at DePaul University in Chicago, John works with both traditional and interactive media to design and implement marketing strategies that build a client’s image, increase support, and grow enrollment or attendance. John’s experience includes developing ROI-based marketing strategies for a variety of nonprofit and for-profit clients. Prior to DePaul, John was an account executive overseeing marketing and advertising strategy, web development, direct mail, print production, and promotional development for clients including Disney, Marconi, Owens Corning, and Reynolds. John began his marketing career while at the University of Wisconsin, where he was hired by a Los Angeles firm to implement cutting-edge marketing programs for Saturn and Trek Bicycle Corporation. John received his B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin and his Master of Science in Information Systems from DePaul University.”

Assessment 

What do you want to bet that the ADA Facebook is Mr. Hergert’s baby?

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BCBS-TX Reverses NPI Policy

Victory at Last

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Every now and then, I enjoy little victories. My war with BCBS-TX started when they began declining to pay their clients’ claims if they originated in my office. Since I’m not a HIPAA-covered entity, I didn’t volunteer for an arbitrary National Provider Identification number.

The behemoth insurance company not only successfully drove away some of my long term patients, but their clever policy blocked my access to their pool of clients who were led to believe their dental insurance was good everywhere – until my office manager had to tell them otherwise. BCBSTX is a sleazy company simply because it lies to its clients as policy. 

Successful Claims

In the last two weeks, my office manager has successfully filed a couple of claims and it appears that unless payment is blocked in the next day or so, BCBSTX no longer requires Texas dentists to have NPI numbers.

Asessment

That’s nice, but I want more. I want the state CHIP program to drop its NPI requirement as well. Why limit access to dental care to the poor because of a number that only helps insurers. I’m just getting started, Texas.

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ADA President and Broken Promises

The Future President

By Darrell K. Puritt; DDS

pruitt8

The election for a future ADA president occurs the first week in October in Hawaii at the 2009 annual meeting. A couple of days ago, the ADA News Online posted the ADA President-elect candidates’ statements.

http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/pubs/adanews/adanewsarticle.asp?articleid=3133

All three sound like they support meaningful dialogue with membership: Candidate Dr. Raymond Gist says one of his goals is: “To protect and preserve ownership of the intellectual property of the ADA while demonstrating transparency and fostering an understanding of how our system works.” Candidate Dr. William Glecos says “My first goal will be to coordinate and improve our communication efforts within the ADA. To make sure we are engaging all our members and imparting a sense of connection and transparency.” Candidate Dr. Marie Schweinebraten says “… communication, internal and external, must be improved to respond in today’s world … barriers must be eliminated to allow member input and volunteer involvement when solving specific issues.” I’ve seen candidates use these same buzzwords before, but not mean them. Dentistry is being severely threatened right now, and I’m too young to retire. So I want to see a future leader confident enough to walk through fire with me on behalf of my patients.

Promises from ADA President-elect candidates have been very disappointing so far. Past President Dr. Mark Feldman, President Dr. John Findley and President-elect Dr. Ron Tankersley each promised “transparency.” Feldman and Findley broke their promises very early, and so far, Tankersley has done no better. Nine months ago I invited Dr. Tankersley to a conversation about the future of electronic dental records and he chose to insult me with silence rather than respond. I took it personally, Ron, and I’ll never forget it. Because all three of these presidents are simply rude people, it wouldn’t bother me to never ask any of them for friendship. 

So do you think our fresh leaders are any more sincere about transparency with membership? Or are they also hoping to be safely elected. This could be an opportunity for one or more of the three to break loose and be counted as a brave leader… or not. Let me show you what Feldman, Findley and Tankersley have gotten us into. Below is a list of duties expected of dentists with NPI numbers that came out today on ANCO Online. If any of you three candidates have the courage to respond to my challenging comments about what I consider to be a perfect example of a renegade department, jump right in. Concerned members need to be warned about the courage we can count on. If you cannot defend the Department of Dental Informatics, just say so. We’ll all be better off. And on truth, we can build. What an opportunity for you! I bet one could easily gain the delegates’ attention by doing the right thing, even if it is unpopular at first to those who may have helped you to power.

Responding to this article in a respectful, professional way could be just what it takes to get a person elected to the highest position in the American Dental Association. That’s what you intensely want, isn’t it? You just have to recognize what I am spelling out for you, Raymond, William and Marie. Just look at the growing discontent with the ADA on the Internet. Whoever is the first to show sincerity and courage, will become a hero to those of us who feel betrayed by those we once trusted. Victory will never be easier. I’ve had a look around. Believe me when I tell you that things are soo bad that even I could be a contender. Don’t make me run for the job.

Here is the first issue for discussion if you are interested: For dentists who were persuaded by the ADA Department of Dental Informatics to quickly volunteer for the 10 digit identifying number, let me ask you this: If you had been told what ADA employees are paid to tell you, which you can read below, would you have applied for an NPI number? And if you were forced to apply for a number by a managed care contract with BCBSTX, Delta Dental or other discount dentistry broker, would that be considered an unfair business practice?

Let’s look at fairness: Who does the NPI number help? Dental patients or BCBSTX? Or perhaps the ADA? We were told again and again in ADA News Online articles written by Arlene Furlong that the best reason for the NPI number was convenience. She said office managers would love it because it would replace numerous identification numbers. When one reads the list of NPI obligations a dentist volunteers their office manager for, all those other numbers don’t seem so bad after all. Why was HIPAA so important that the ADA Department of Dental Informatics forced employees under its supervision to intentionally mislead membership? Does the ADA work for dentists and their patients or for CMS? There you go, Dr. Raymond Gist, Dr. William Glecos and Dr. Marie Schweinebraten. It’s your turn now. If you have the guts to step up to a challenge, it could pay off big. Besides, even if you get elected without first responding to my concerns doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of me. Oh heaven’s no.

D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS

http://anco- .blogspot.com/2009/08/asco-coa-cms-palmettoj1mac-news.html

**** CMS NEWS ****

This message is for health care providers, particularly physicians and other practitioners, who have obtained National Provider Identifiers (NPIs) and have records in the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends that each health care provider, including individual physicians and non-physician practitioners: · Secure and maintain their own NPPES account information (i.e., User ID, Password, and Secret Question/Answer) for safety and accessibility purposes. Health care providers should maintain the confidentiality of their User ID, password, and Secret Question/Answer in order to protect their NPPES information from unauthorized access. Reset their NPPES passwords at least once a year.

See the NPPES Application Help page at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Help.do and select the ‘Reset Password Page’ for applicable rules. Those rules indicate the length, format, content and requirements of NPPES passwords. Review their NPPES records in order to ensure that the information reflects current and correct information. Covered health care providers are required to update their NPPES information within 30 days of the effective date of the change.

Viewing NPPES Information Health care providers, including physicians and non-physician practitioners, can view their NPPES information in one of two ways: (1) By accessing the NPPES record at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Welcome.do and following the NPI hyperlink and selecting Login. The user will be prompted to enter the User ID and password that he/she previously created. If the health care provider has forgotten the password, enter the User ID and click the “Reset Forgotten Password” button to navigate to the Reset Password Page. If the health care provider enters an incorrect User ID and Password combination three times, the User ID will be disabled. Please contact the NPI Enumerator at 1-800-465-3203 if the account is disabled or if the health care provider has forgotten the User ID. OR (2) By accessing the NPI Registry at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/NPIRegistryHome.do.

The NPI Registry gives the health care provider an online view of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-disclosable NPPES data. The health care provider can search for its information using the name or NPI as the criterion. Information regarding NPPES data that are FOIA-disclosable can be found at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalProvIdentStand/ by selecting ‘Data Dissemination’. Please note: Business Mailing Address and Business Practice location information (full address and corresponding telephone numbers) are key data elements that are FOIA-disclosable.

Health care providers should not report their residential address unless it is their Business Mailing Address or Business Practice location. The NPPES data appearing on the NPI Registry cannot be deleted; however, it can be updated or changed. Updating NPPES Information Health care providers, including physicians and non-physician practitioners, can correct, add, or delete information in their NPPES records by accessing their NPPES records at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Welcome.do and following the NPI hyperlink and selecting Login. The user will be prompted to enter the User ID and password that he/she previously created.

Please note: Required information cannot be deleted from an NPPES record; however, required information can be changed/updated to ensure that NPPES captures the correct information. Certain information is inaccessible via the web, thus requiring the change/update to be made via paper application. The paper NPI Application/Update Form (CMS-10114) can be downloaded and printed at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/cmsforms/downloads/CMS10114.pdf.

Deactivating the NPI Health care providers, including physicians and non-physician practitioners, can deactivate their NPIs if the NPIs are no longer required or needed. Reasons for deactivation include retirement, business dissolved, or death of the health care provider. A request for deactivation must be submitted via paper application. The paper NPI Application/Update Form (CMS-10114) can be downloaded and printed at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/cmsforms/downloads/CMS10114.pdf.

Health care providers should review the instructions located on the application regarding deactivations in order to properly complete the deactivation request. The Power of Attorney or Executor of the Will may complete the application for deactivation due to death of the health care provider.

Need More Information?

Providers can apply for an NPI online at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov or can call the NPI enumerator to request a paper application at 1-800-465-3203. Visit CMS’ dedicated NPI web page at www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalProvIdentStand for additional NPI information.

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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?

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Medical Coding and Billing Vocabulary

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Basic HIT Nomenclature and HIPAA

[By Richard J. Mata; MD, MIS, CMP™ [Hon]

For the Health Information Technology [HIT] department of a hospital, clinic or medical practice and its coders, the following medical vocabularies are mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA].

Diseases 

For diseases: the 9th or 10th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Clinical Modification should be used.  ICD9-CM is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics, while ICD-10 is maintained by the World Health Organization.

Procedures

For medical procedures: a combination of ICD-9-CM, Current Procedural Terminology maintained by the American Medical Association, the Current Dental Terminology maintained by the American Dental Association, and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) maintained by CMS, which is also used for medical devices.

Pharmaceuticals

For drugs: these should be coded according to their National Drug Code classification.

Assessment

“A recent change to Medicare policy made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) helps ensure claims processing isn’t delayed when the only missing information on the CMS-1490S form is the provider or supplier’s National Provider Identifier (NPI).

CMS Transmittal 1747, Change Request 6434, issued May 22, notifies A/B Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) and carriers of editorial changes to Medicare policy in Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, chapter 1 regarding the monitoring of claims submission violations and the handling of incomplete or invalid claims.

In either case, as stated in the transmittal, “If the beneficiary furnishes all other information but fails to supply the provider or supplier’s NPI, the contractor shall not return the claim but rather look up the provider or supplier’s NPI using the NPI registry.”

http://www.aapc.com/news/index.php/2009/06/missing-npi-no-reason-to-deny-says-cms/

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Why Coding Professionals?

More on the NPI, the AAPC, Censorship and Quality Health Care

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

pruittFor those who have been following me recently on Twitter (Proots), you know that unlike me, John Hamm has not yet been kicked off of DrBicuspid, and is awaiting a response from Dr. David J. Pettigrew – a dental coding expert with 14 years of experience as Chief Dental Officer for BCBS of New Jersey. I can only shadow the conversation because, as I said, I was kicked off.

Through John Hamm, I sent word to Dr. Pettigrew that he should just shut up and not enter into a discussion about the NPI number. Pettigrew told Johnhamm that I should come onto the DrBicuspid forum and say that in front of everyone. Of course, I am unable to do that because as shameful as it is to my family, I am still banned from posting anything on DrBicuspid.

For real-time developments concerning Dr. Pettigrew’s public defense of the NPI number, it would be better to follow that chunk of drama on Twitter or DrBicuspid. I’ve got other things cooking here. Can you smell it yet?

As you can see, sports fans, I have had Internet contact with a new class of fat, slow-moving healthcare IT stakeholders, and I haven’t been building long-term relationships fortified by good will – if you know what I mean. 14 years of employment at BCBS of New Jersey fails to impress me much.

American Academy of Professional Coders

Those who have studied alphanumeric science have a national organization called the American Academy of Professional Coders [AAPC] which represents business consultants in a growing healthcare niche. Most are employed by providers who are too busy actually performing healthcare to play games with insurance companies for the money owed them. Like SEO professionals who know gimmicks to increase a client’s page rank in relation to competitors, or perhaps a bolus of bad news from a special bastard, professional coders maximize providers’ profits by keeping on top of the ever-changing hoops involved in paying doctors almost all that is owed them following a shorter than average delay.

ICD-10 is Coming 

Learning coding is job security these days because in a few years the mandated ICD-10 codes will force even dental offices to hire IT staff, which also cuts down on the nation’s unemployment. I’ve taken a peek at the ICD-10, and it makes the ICD-9 look like simple algebra. I’d stick with well-trained coding professionals. They’ll cost more but you do want to approach making a profit, don’t you?

Of Censorship

I submitted the following stinker to be posted on the AAPC Website. To their credit, it was posted almost immediately. That could be a good sign … OOPS! Several minutes later it went back under moderation. I think someone is having problems with it. You’ll have to read it to understand why. It’s tricky to let go of, yet if it remains posted, it looks like a concession. Some poor slob in the AAPC is in a bad position. I hope you are enjoying this as much as I am.

-Darrell

“A recent change to Medicare policy made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) helps ensure claims processing isn’t delayed when the only missing information on the CMS-1490S form is the provider or supplier’s National Provider Identifier (NPI).

CMS Transmittal 1747, Change Request 6434, issued May 22, notifies A/B Medicare Administrative Contractors (MAC) and carriers of editorial changes to Medicare policy in Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, chapter 1 regarding the monitoring of claims submission violations and the handling of incomplete or invalid claims.

In either case, as stated in the transmittal, “If the beneficiary furnishes all other information but fails to supply the provider or supplier’s NPI, the contractor shall not return the claim but rather look up the provider or supplier’s NPI using the NPI registry.”

http://www.aapc.com/news/index.php/2009/06/missing-npi-no-reason-to-deny-says-cms/

“How does an NPI number improve patient care?”

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS – posted on AAPC Website, 6.4.09

Boxing Gloves I see that nobody from the American Academy of Professional Coders has yet attempted to answer my question. Some visitors to the AAPC Website who have followed the comments to the article “Missing NPI Won’t Delay Processing – CMS” (no byline) may think the lack of an answer is odd – that is if they happen to notice. The novice professional coder who still does not know much about HIPAA could easily assume that since the article itself is almost a week old, the lack of a response to my question is nothing more than the natural fading of interest. At some point, people logically move on to newer posts and other parts of their lives.

But I know a secret.

Based on nothing more than glaring silence from anonymous officials of AAPC, I know that my question of whether the NPI number improves care did not go unnoticed by a few knowledgeable and sharp individuals. They know enough not to touch a transparently trick question. The answer of course is:

The NPI number does nothing to improve patient care (Gasp!)

There’s more. Five years ago informatics experts (coders), promised that the ten digit identification number for providers will speed payments lightning fast. When is the last time you heard that fib? I cannot fault abundant optimism, AAPC, but by now you are surely aware that physicians have had to wait for a year or more for payment because of foul-ups at NPPES. Some have had to take out loans to pay the salaries of coding professionals and other new IT members of their staffs.

Improving Healthcare?

And as far as “improving” patient care? That would be worse than a fib. That would be called a harmful lie that upsets me in a very personal way. I know where it is documented that dental patients have been forced to leave dentists they preferred simply because one-third of the dentists in Texas do not have NPI numbers. BCBSTX requires that their clients only see dentists who have the numbers. Otherwise, the client has to pay their dental bill in full and BCBSTX isn’t even obligated to refund the employer the insurance premium. Yet BCBSTX sales reps tell these employers that their employees can see any Texas dentist they choose.

I’m sorry. Sometimes I ramble.

To keep it fair, I will ask if there is anyone who would like to point out the benefits of the NPI number. Your AAPC members and many others, including enthusiastic newbie coders, are interested in hearing from leaders of the organization. Many careers are built upon the complexities caused by digitalization and informatics. I don’t blame you for the complications. After all, you don’t make the rules – you just get along with them really well. It’s like our unavoidably complicated tax code and accountants. Accountants call themselves professionals. So why the hell shouldn’t you?

The Medical Executive-Post

Let me say that I am grateful that you believe enough in transparency that this comment remains posted. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone briefly considered deleting it until they discovered that it will be on the PennWell forum and probably on the Medical Executive-Post anyway. And of course, we can all see that you chose the honorable thing to do.

NPI Fallacy

The NPI fallacy reminds me of a scene in the Mike Judge movie “Idiocracy,” when a character 500 years in the future named Frito is asked why fields are fruitlessly irrigated with a politically-correct brand of green colored sports drink instead of water. Frito, who got his law degree from Costco, doesn’t even have to suffer minimal thought before he quickly repeats what he’s heard so many times, “’Cause it’s got ‘lectrolytes.”

Grnerod finds it incredible that I don’t have an NPI number. “How on earth are you billing and getting paid without an NPI?”

I told him (?) that I don’t work if I don’t get paid. Call me an old school radical.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. What are your feelings on the NPI situation? Does it really improve health care, or not? Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, be sure to subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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Dictionary of Health Information Technology and Security

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Future of Health Publishing and Business Journalism

Good Content and “Fly” Beats the Competition

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

[Publisher-in-Chief]dr-david-marcinko7

Last month, Steve Brawner [Steve Brawner Communications, a free-lance journalist for the Medical Business News, Inc., and the publisher of Medical News of Arkansas] contacted me to talk about hospitals, healthcare economics and the current financial dilemma in medical care. The interview will appear, as a special report, in April

But, after discussing answers to his top ten questions, we at the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com posited another interesting query. It was not on any particular subject area of our expertise, but aimed at us as electronic-publishers, reporters and health journalists.biz-book3 

The Future of Journalism

In other words, the question was:

“What do we think is the future business model for health journalism?”

Now, we’ve been mulling this thought over some time now, and our opinion goes something like this:

“We don’t – the old media is collapsing.”

And, while I don’t pity the likes of Chicago billionaire Sam Zell [the so-called “grave-dancer” for his penchant to buy distressed companies on the cheap and revitalize them for profit] – poor Sam – he was a very successful real-estate entrepreneur and the Chairman of Equity Group Investments. He thought this knowledge or luck was transferrable to the publishing industry, it wasn’t.

But, I do feel for distressed print newspapers like the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Chicago Tribune and especially the Baltimore Sun; as a native Balti-moron. I have both a favorite uncle, and older cousin, whose entire careers were spent in the print and ink business, there.

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/healthcare-experts-versus-health-journalists/

New Media “Fly”

How has this happened? Well, Google destroyed the advertising model for most media, and blogs and social networks have democratized the commentary / opinion playing field to some greater / lesser extent. Think: Mark Zuckerberg [Facebook] of Harvard, whose parents are both physicians – incidentally Mark’s got “fly” – Zell does not. We got the electrons at the ME-P, but little cash.

The Problem

The problem is that not many “new” media outlets, like the Medical Executive-Post, can afford to take on the interesting part of publishing; which is paying real investigative journalists. Think: The Huffington Post. Something I would love to be able to do; as there’s lots of muck to be raked in health economics, finance, administration, health IT; as well as medically focused financial planning, Wall Street and related personal investing activities for doctors – an integrated oeuvre of topics to say the least.

www.HealthDictionarySeries.comdhimc-book1

Our Own Investigative Reporter

About the closest we have to a true investigative reporter is Darrel K. Pruitt; DDS. And, although he is no Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein; he does occasionally do a good job. Think: William Mark Felt as FBI agent “deep-throat”.

Of course, as regular readers of the ME-P are aware, Darrell broke the dental profession’s [allegedly dufus] conspiracy with CCHIT [allegedly faux], and regularly reports on the folly of eHRs, eDRs, NPIs and eMRs. Think: citizen doctor journalist.  

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/cchit-is-prejudiced-and-lacks-diversity-%e2%80%93-an-indictment/

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/avi-baumstein-and-hipaa-compliancy/

Link: https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/03/04/don%e2%80%99t-rush-ehrs/

Assessment

But, when the ME-P gets financially solid enough to hire others, and put them into the mix of expertise, commentary and free-labor entrepreneur punditry we now have on the site; then there’ll be no need for the current newspapers [at least insofar as our covered topic channels are concerned]. Until then; we don’t know what the answer is, but it, like the economy, doesn’t look good for the print media space.

Link: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable

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According to the conventional wisdom expressed above, this printed guide should be a relic of the past, from an era before instant messaging and high-speed connectivity. But, our experience shows just the opposite. Applied healthcare economics and financial management literature has grown exponentially in the past decade and the plethora of internet information makes updates that sort through the clutter and provide strategic analysis all the more valuable.

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Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. What is our best-of-breed business model for print and the internet? Should we charge for our electronic content – and if so – how much? OR, shall it remain an informal and complimentary companion to the $535 annual print guide? Please opine. 

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Reflections on Evidence Based Dentistry

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My Search for Truth – 2009

[By Darrell Kellus Pruitt; DDS]pruitt4

Do the leaders of the American Dental Association [ADA] encourage critical thinking by membership?  Or; do they fear my opinion of what appears to be destructive and self-serving institutional bias in my ADA that favors businesses peripheral to the care of dental patients, and at patients’ expense?  I think it is clear that there are a few good ol’ boys imbedded in the fat ADA who prefer to hide behind a comfortable, but obsolete command-and-control ADA business model.  The mighty ostrich stuck its head in the sand. Then along came a noisy, gasoline-powered weed-whacker. Never saw it coming.

Evidence-Based Dentistry Champion Conference

On May 29-30, the First Annual “Evidence-Based Dentistry (EBD) Champion Conference” will be convened in ADA Headquarters in Chicago.  Just like last year, the meeting with a brand-new name is sponsored by Procter & Gamble and The Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice with Dr. Michael G. Newman as its Editor and Chief.  Even though this effort is enthusiastically supported by large corporations with products to sell, like P&G, managed care insurance companies such as Delta Dental, and electronic health records vendors such as Allscripts, the power of the reclusive stakeholders is further amplified by bureaucrats inside and outside the ADA – siphoning off my professional organization’s credibility.  That is my opinion based on actual contact with a few characters in this group. 

Evidence-Based Dentistry: 3rd International Conference

I attended the meeting last year when it was called “Evidence-Based Dentistry: 3rd International Conference” – I assume that in the last year, it lost its “international” status, and now caters only to “EBD Champions” (cheerleaders).  Last year, they were also looking for Champions for their EBD ideas, but the bias was better concealed.  I reported on the meeting in an article called “Evidence-Based Dentistry – My search for truth.”

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/evidencebased-dentistry-my

Shortly into the meeting on May 4, 2008, I could tell by a show of hands from attendees that as a dentist who actually puts his hands in patients’ mouths as a regular part of his job; I was virtually alone in the auditorium.  This was confirmed by the volume of “Boo” directed at me later that day.  The Champions who had been selected months before the conference had already met that week and they were pumped. One could smell the zeal for EBD – whatever it means. 

Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice

In his introduction to last year’s conference, Dr. Michael G. Newman, Editor in Chief of the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice, told attendees that P&G is providing all the information about EBD to all the dental schools in the nation. I will be honest with you.  Being booed last year for addressing what I think is the inferior quality of managed care dentistry during the final discussion period may have affected my attitude about EBD. In addition, being subsequently blocked from responding to a hurt and angry managed care discount dentistry broker by an ADA employee named Dr. Ron Zentz also disappointed me in my ADA.  Dr. Zentz told me “This is not the place for this” as he stood between me and the microphone. Later I could not get Zentz to concede the indisputable fact that quality is proportional to reward. When I pressed him for an answer to the managed care question, he stoically repeated exactly what the insurance representative said: “Whether the dentistry is managed care or not, it makes no difference in the quality of care.”  Here is something cute:  The event was an “Evidence-Based” conference on the second floor of the Headquarters of the ADA, and Dr. Zentz is employed in the ADA’s “unbiased” science department.  Get it?  Now that’s funny!

Trouble-Makers Don’t Get Invited Back

My bad behavior last year may have something to do with why I was not invited to attend this year, even though I worked hard on the prerequisite essays which I will share with you later.  Nevertheless, I have to warn that ADA-approved propaganda from P&G doesn’t strengthen this dentist’s confidence that our leaders are protecting the future of dentistry, friends. Take a look at what healthcare parasites have quietly done over the last decade or so to physicians’ practices with the blessing of the AMA, and counter to the interests of patients.  Those same parasites were in ADA Headquarters on May 4, 2008.  Our house at 211 East Chicago Avenue reeked. 

EDB Vagueness

Like the HIPAA Rule on which Newman’s favorite interpretation of EBD leans hard, the beauty of EBD is in its vagueness. Both HIPAA and EBD can mean damn well anything one needs them to mean, and stakeholders with lots of influence have their fingerprints and drool all over the plans.  For example, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, a stakeholder and one of the speakers at last year’s conference uses HIPAA to support EBD and vice-versa according to closed-circuit, cause-I-said-so science that he evidently makes up as he goes.  It is difficult for me to imagine that Ahlstrom’s eleven reasons that HIPAA benefit dentistry – which he presented as testimony for HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt over a year ago – were approved by a committee. I think Ahlstrom made up his reasons while waiting in the hall for the NCVHS meeting to begin. If the reasons were indeed approved by an ADA committee, I extend my sympathy. It must be difficult for challenged people like that to safely find their way home from work every day. 

(See “HIPAA and Dentistry – About Ahlstrom’s Controversial HIPAA Testimony”) 

https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/hipaa-and-dentistry/

Where is the Evidence?

A few hours before Dr. Ahlstrom, an ADA NHII (National Health Information Infrastructure) Task Force member, took the podium, Dr. Newman pleaded with dentists to always ask, “Where is the evidence?”  I know Dr. Ahlstrom heard Dr. Newman’s words because Ahlstrom was sitting on the first row, next to ADA Senior VP Dr. John Luther, who is in charge of the ADA Department of Dental Informatics – a major beneficiary of EBD and HIPAA.

***

dental

***

Buzzwords 

I have come to the conclusion that EBD is a buzzword for a scheme supported by avaricious stakeholders who seek to regulate dentistry using healthcare IT.  I assume it will be left to Dr. Robert Ahlstrom to present the plan to the next administration in his special, fanciful way.  It is clear to me that the ADA is using Ahlstrom to lead American dentists down a computerized, cook-book path initially promoted several years ago at ADA Headquarters by none other than Newt Gingrich.  The path ends with the NPI, NPPES and Ingenix-style Pay-for-Performance instead of free-market competition and consumers’ desires.  Like Ahlstrom, EBD is little more than a tool.

Living with Rejection

I learned a couple of days ago that my application for this year’s conference was rejected.  A PDF letter signed by Dr. Michael Newman, Editor and Chief of the Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice stated that the competition for seats was intense this year, and that I just didn’t have what the selection committee was looking for in a “champion” – even though one can see by their essay questions that the EBD stakeholders desire dentists who can draw audiences. 

My Responses 

Below are my responses to this year’s questions that I posted on September 23, even before I hooked up with PennWell, and the ME-P.  I’m even more widely read now. 

Q: Are you involved in the treatment of populations with limited access to care?

Counseling people who have big problems and little money is part of the job. Almost every day I help patients make hard decisions that affect their appearance as well as health. Compromises are always difficult, especially when it involves children. I do my best to provide my patients with the information they need concerning their specific problems in a personal manner. In that respect, I am no different than almost all other dentists I know.

Q: Given the opportunity, how do you plan to disseminate the information and knowledge of EBD?

For dentistry-related news, I am arguably the most popular commentator on the Internet. If I am convinced that EBD is in patients’ best interest, I can promote the concept to a wider audience than anyone else in dentistry and it will not cost a thing. I can use any number of websites in addition to a private network of colleagues that has been in place for almost three years.  

If I leave the conference suspecting that stakeholders ambushed EBD to manipulate dentist-patient relationships for selfish reasons, I will work even more effectively to undermine it. Fair is fair.

Q: Are there any specific examples that demonstrate your ability to be a good disseminator?

Apart from having an increasingly popular column about healthcare matters on this ME-P https://healthcarefinancials.wordpress.com/?s=darrell+pruitt+dds ), I am always seeking new and innovative ways to attract attention to dentistry. I am very good at what I do.

Here is a simple demonstration of my talent: Googlesearch “Darrell Pruitt DDS.” You will discover that I’ve got what they call “googlejuice.” I create interesting content. People you need to reach read me.

The question is; does the ADA have the confidence to subject EBD to my critique? On the other hand, does the ADA have the courage not to?

Since I will not be allowed to keep colleagues in my neighborhood as informed in real-time and in detail as they should be, I invite one or more “EBD Champions” to describe what they learned following the Conference in May right here on this ME-P and PennWell forums.  And as always, I invite Dr. Robert Ahlstrom to discuss what he plans to do with my dental practice. 

Assessment

Tomorrow, as part of “Transparency and the ADA – a dissecting experiment,” I intend to post another question on the EBD link following my weekly report.  I will ask if Dr. Robert H. Ahlstrom will be addressing the audience before having my name put on a short-call list to replace late-cancellations.  Depending on the answer, I may go camping instead.

Channel Surfing the ME-P

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Conclusion

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Extortion Argument for HIT De-Identification

A Really Scary Tale

By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDSpruitt

Upon arriving at the office early one morning recently, Dr. Smith logged on to the Internet to check her email. Among the usual pieces of junk email, one from Nigeria caught her eye. She recognized the name of one of her patients, written in bold letters. She thought, “That’s odd.” Smith opened the email to read more.

The Threat 

“I am revealing the name of your patient, who lives on Oak Street, as proof that your computer has been hacked. I have social security numbers, birthdates, insurance information … You name it, and I’ve got it. It will go on the market in 24 hours if you do not do exactly what I say …” (This is the start of price negotiations – for the first time).

The Decision 

What will Dr. Smith do? At the very best, she can hope that it’s a bluff. Nevertheless she must contact not only the FBI, but every one of her patients who are at risk of identity theft. That alone will bankrupt her practice because a large portion of her patients will never return. They will look for dentists with paper records. The very worse thing she could do is pay the ransom. In the end, how much did the bad guy risk to destroy a wonderful career, even if it was a bluff, or a devastatingly mean trick? You can relax now; this story is fiction. Here is the non-fiction.

NEWS FLASH!

“Script said the new letters were received by Express Script clients in recent days and is similar to the letter it first received. That letter included personal information on 75 people covered by Express Scripts, including birth dates, social security numbers and prescription information. The sender demanded money from the company, under the threat of exposing records of millions of patients.” – BusinessWeek [11.11.08]

More: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D94CVLJO0.htm

Lose the Threat 

Dentists must lose this danger or lose their computers. Let’s temporarily put aside our dreams about how wonderful technology might become and open our minds to ways to go around insurmountable obstacles instead of pretending everything is wonderful in stakeholder land. For once, let’s seriously look into de-identifying our patients’ electronic dental records already. Forget about HIPAA and inspections. Forget about AHIC Successor Inc. Forget about CCHIT, CMS and even the HHS. Forget about Newt Gingrich and the past, present and future Presidents of the American Dental Association who prefer to be irrelevant than to discuss anything bad about electronic dental records. And especially forget, with prejudice, executives of dental insurance companies who demand interoperability on their NPI-driven terms. Let’s sidestep the biggest mistake in healthcare history. It does not have to be ours.

More Info:  Dictionary of Health Information Technology and Security 

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Not a Fete’ Accompli 

Some leaders who have poor understanding of the modern marketplace would lead ADA members to believe that there is nothing that can be done to stop eHRs in the United States of America, no matter how expensive, dangerous and lousy stakeholder interests make them. Why; “cause I said so?”

Example:

Let me give you an example: “If we don’t participate, then who knows what will happen regarding the dental part of the eHR? eHR is on the way.” – Dr. John S. Findley, President of the ADA in “President-Elect’s Interview: Part 2,” ADA News Online (ADA members only).

More: http://adabei.com/members/resources/pubs/adanews/081006_findley.asp

If we don’t participate, Dr. Findley, dentistry will proceed with safe paper records like it has for a century or so.  I have clearly shown that far worse things could happen.  Shouldn’t we “first do no-harm” to our dental patients?  What happened to the ethics of the American Dental Association?

Stakeholder Optimism 

Even though optimistic stakeholders, hobbyists and hangers-on disagree with me, electronic dental records are not inevitable. At least they are not inevitable in the next decade or so.  They can easily become so lousy and so mistrusted by doctors and patients alike that they will set back miracles from Open Source Evidence-Based Dentistry forever. They are almost there already because of ambitious stakeholders, hobbyists and slow-moving hangers-on; like Dr. John S. Findley.

Assessment

Remember, decades ago the US was supposed to be on the metric system.  Sometimes inevitability takes so long that you might as well just forget about it.  And, the metric system even makes sense.

Conclusion

Unlike medical records which must remain secure even if de-identified, nobody, I repeat, nobody cares about breached dental histories. Physicians may have no choice. Dentists do! As always, your thoughts and comments on this Executive-Post are appreciated.

Related Information Sources:

Practice Management: http://www.springerpub.com/prod.aspx?prod_id=23759

Physician Financial Planning: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/0763745790

Medical Risk Management: http://www.jbpub.com/catalog/9780763733421

Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

Physician Advisors: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.com

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The NPI Debate Heats Up

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Questionable Benefits for Providers

[By Darrell Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

I really hate lies!

Even though I have been a member of the American Dental Association [ADA] for 26 years, and intend to remain a member for the rest of my life, I cannot stand by silently any longer while my professional organization uses lies and/or deception to trick trusting members into volunteering for NPI numbers. 

Now, to see what I mean, please read what the ADA tells dentists about the benefits of the NPI number http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/topics/npi.asp

  • 1. Once implemented across the entire health care industry, the NPI will be accepted by all dental plans as a valid provider identifier on electronic dental claims and other standard electronic transactions.
  • 2. Dentists will not have to maintain multiple, arbitrary identifiers required by dental plans, nor will they have to remember which number to use with which dental plan.
  • 3. NPIs introduce an important element of standardization to electronic transactions that should improve transaction acceptance rates.   

Questionable Benefits Review

See what I mean? Now let’s review:  

  • 1. Number one clearly benefits only insurers and number three is unwashed tyranny.  The smell of sweet buzzwords counter-balancing the odor of the verb “should” immediately revealed to me traditional PR hucksterism … and I’ve seen better. The NPI number, which is conveniently necessary for electronic transactions, will only make it cheaper for insurers to deny claims.  I think anyone can see that denials will increase for natural, bottom line reasons.
  • 2. That leaves benefit number two – reduction of ID numbers – as dentists’ last hope of a return on investment in the voluntary NPI.  And, ROI could take a while.  In the first place, how much do multiple identification numbers actually slow dentistry production in a computerized dental office?  Why don’t we get silly?
  • 3. Of all things, for the ADA to list simplification as a benefit of the NPI is embarrassing, but here is what will make a few ADA leaders avoid each other in the halls of Headquarters next week. Even though the promise of simplification is lame, it is technically the only benefit the NPI number lends dentists and their patients.

Enter the AAFP

Here now, is some fresh bad-news for certain ADA leaders and members who trusted their advice. 

In an article that was posted yesterday on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) website, it looks like CMS reneged on simplification.

http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/publications/news/news-now/practice-management/20080829keep-ptans.html

PTANS 

“Notice to physicians: Hold on to your Medicare Provider Transaction Access Numbers [PTANs], also known as legacy numbers which were to have been retired after the mandatory use of National Provider Identifier [NPI] numbers on May 23.” CMS has found another use for those old PTANs.”

Imagine that.  Instead of eliminating all of those identifiers as promised, the NPI is just one more number to add to the hard drive.

Assessment

Regardless, patients don’t suffer harm from all this, right?  Wrong. 

I’ll describe harm from HIPAA, the biggest blunder in the history of dentistry, and medicine, next time. 

Conclusion

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The NPI and One DDS’s Opinion

A Dentist Offers his View on the NPI Deadline Issue

pruitt

By Darrell Pruitt, DDS

I have a unique perspective of the National Provider Identifier [NPI] issue. 

As a dentist who has no contracts with any insurance company, I refuse to apply for an NPI number. Legally, I am not compelled to “volunteer” for the number, regardless of whether it is a mandate or not.  HHS does not license dentists. States do. Texas says that it is fine by them for me to practice here on the east side of Fort Worth.

Why Volunteer?

Why should I volunteer for the NPI mess?

The NPI does nothing to improve the quality of care I provide. It benefits only payers, and any time anyone fouls up at National Plan & Provider Enumeration System [NPPES], it can only mean one thing – payments will be delayed, earning insurers even more interest on money meant to pay for work already done and long gone out the door.

I should remind you that inflation is due to soar soon as well, making the reimbursement worth even less to the provider the longer it is delayed.

The IRS

And, there is more.

I assume you heard about the IRS sticking their fat fingers into the pie. That happened just recently, completely unexpectedly.

Now the IRS can delay claims as well if one has an NPI number. What a mess. Why would I want to be part of it? If having an NPI forces me to raise my fees, it hurts my patients.

Part of the Hippocratic Oath is to do no harm. It is clearly unethical for a doctor to have an NPI number. Allow me to show you how far ethics will take a Texas dentist these days.

My Situation

Since I am not on any managed care plans, my BCBSTX-covered dental patients who I have treated for years did not pick me off of BCBSTX’s annual preferred provider list. They chose my practice as a consistent dental home, year after year, because they were more than likely referred by a satisfied patient.

When the BCBSTX agents sold my patients’ employers their dental plans, the insured was told to tell employees that they could see any dentist they choose. This is called a traditional indemnity plan, which honors freedom of choice as opposed to the cheaper managed care plans that penalize clients for not going to dentists that the insurance company prefers.

The Managed Care Misnomer

Calling managed care in dentistry “insurance” is a misnomer. It is actually nothing more than a discount dental brokerage service with annual lists of the lowest bidders in the market, and there is no quality control.

Until recently, I have had an unwritten agreement with BCBSTX that I would honor their insurance by allowing their clients to pay only their estimated part of the dental bills, and I would wait for BCBSTX’s share to come later in the mail – however long that takes.

That is called “accepting assignment,” and it is based on trust between dentists and BCBSTX, and is a favor to patients, not a requirement.

I have to say that BCBSTX is so slow at paying their part of their clients’ bills that patients would soon become very impatient if they had to wait as long for their money as I have to wait for mine. My practice, as well as my patience, can tolerate delays … up to a point.

In the end, if a claim is unreasonably delayed by an insurer, I can ultimately call on the state insurance commission to fight for fairness for my patient. Who can I complain to if payment is delayed by the IRS?

Assessment

In the last week, BCBSTX rejected three of my claims because I don’t have an NPI.  What am I to do?  

Ultimately, I may have to go against my own ethics and apply for an NPI number in order to stay in business.

The NPI does nothing to improve the quality of care I provide to my patients. It only delays payment.

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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

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