Archive for month: February, 2015

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 End-of-Life (EOL)

Categories: Articles

2015_02_04URGENT NOTICE for All Highly Regulated Industries – Healthcare, Financial, Legal, etc.

Medicus Solutions would like to provide an update as it relates to the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 end-of-life. This has started to get a lot of publicity in tech news, generating many questions, and has prompted us to put together information for our clients.

 

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Windows Server 2003 was released May of 2003, about a dozen years ago, and Microsoft will end support officially on July 15, 2015.  The countdown has started for the Server 2003 end-of-life; it will R.I.P. (rest in peace).

 

HOW DOES THE SERVER 2003 END-IF-LIFE AFFECT YOU?

First and foremost, with Microsoft ending support and security patches, this will make Server 2003 more vulnerable to attacks, malware, and ultimately a security risk. Hackers and cybercriminals know this is coming and it is time to prepare. Because of the end of security patches, after the end of support date, Server 2003 will no longer be an acceptable as part of your practice’s HIPAA compliant solution. Many software vendors have already released that they will be ending support for their applications on the server 2003 platform as well.

 

MYTH: MY OFFICE USES SERVER 2003, BUT IT’S OK – WE HAVE GREAT ANTIVIRUS AND/OR A MAGICAL FIREWALL

There is no plausible, credible argument in the fact that if you are running excellent firewall or antivirus software safeguarding your server, that you are given a pass on ridding your practice of end-of-life operating systems. The HIPAA Security Rule Section 164.308 (a) (5) (ii) (B) states that healthcare entities (covered entity) must implement “procedures for guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software”. Placing all your eggs in the basket of an antivirus or firewall solution, while your underlying Operating System (OS) is basking in zero-day threats that will have no patching, is a falsehood you don’t want to sit upon in the face of legal action. It won’t stand up in court.

 

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE DUE TO SERVER 2003 END-OF-LIFE?

If you have a Windows Server 2003 device still in operation it is time to plan to upgrade and/or replace these devices to protect the security of your systems and to meet security compliance under the HIPAA Security Rule.  Many servers physical hardware will not be capable of running a newer version of Windows Server and likely will need to be replaced.

Medicus will be reaching out to all active clients whom have a Windows 2003 Server in deployment to make a recommendation on best path for addressing this in your infrastructure. If you are not a currently Medicus client and need assistance, please reach out to us at sales@msinc.com or 678-495-5900.

 

Thank you!

Your Medicus Support Team

A couple of reference links for Server 2003 End-of-Life

http://support2.microsoft.com/lifecycle/search/default.aspx?alpha=Windows+Server+2003+R2

http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/administrative/securityrule/adminsafeguards.pdf

You are not planning to move but don’t overlook your renewal!

Categories: Articles

2015_02_03With new regulations coming from seemingly every direction, the looming implementation of ICD10 and the far reaching effects of the Affordable Care Act practices often overlook a significant source of bottom line savings, their lease renewal. When your practice has a lease which is a year from expiration you should begin the process of planning for a successful renegotiation.

That process involves many of the same elements you consider in looking for new space. You must first examine the clinical needs of your practice at that location in terms of your current needs but more importantly in terms of your needs over the renewal term. Based on that evaluation you must determine if your current space is able to meet those needs. If your current space does not meet those needs you must determine what changes are needed and the cost and practicality of those changes. You will be signing a long term high dollar commitment which will have a significant impact on your practice’s bottom line. Many practices fail to start the renewal process early enough and they fail to consider the renewal as an opportunity to plan for the efficient operation of that location into the future. The renewal gives your practice the chance to consider how changes in healthcare will change the requirements for that particular location in terms of the amount of space needed and in the layout of the space.

To examine your current and future needs you need to begin asking questions.

  • Do you plan to add or reduce the number of providers at that location during the term of the renewal?
  • If you plan an increase or a decrease in the number of providers how will what effect the number of exam rooms, restrooms, and doctors offices needed?
  • What changes should or could be made to the support areas based on the changes to the clinical areas which would necessitate either an increase or a decrease in the space needed?
  • Will changes in your practice change the number of staff needed (either by addition or subtraction) throughout that office?
  • Have equipment changes either in the front office or elsewhere caused the need for a redesign of the effected area?
  • Has the patient base either current or projected changed in such a way as to necessitate the need to re-examine the geographical location of that office?

 

Once you have asked sufficient questions and obtained sufficient answers you can determine whether your current space can accommodate your future needs both in terms of square footage and layout. This information can then be used to make design changes to your current office and to select alternatives to your current space which meet your current and future needs. The alternatives you select serve a dual purpose. At the end of the analysis one of them may provide a better alternative than your current space and they will provide valuable leverage which you can use in negotiations with your current landlord.

Once you have picked realistic alternatives you should work thru the process just as you would if you were looking for a new space in a new area. You request proposals from your current space and the initial alternatives you selected. Based on a comparison of the responses you will choose one or two of the alternatives as finalists. These finalists are then asked to prepare preliminary floorplans and construction pricing so that each of the finalists can provide an updated proposal which reflects the lease cost and the construction cost for that alternative. Using these proposals and the updated proposal you received from your current landlord, which reflects any proposed tenant improvements, you will negotiate between options to achieve the best possible offers from each. Remember that negotiation is a process not a one time request for terms. After you feel you have negotiated the best terms obtainable from each of the options, including your current space, you compare the options and select a winner. Once chosen you negotiate a final lease document with the winner.

The process of negotiating between your current space and the alternatives provides critical leverage to make sure that whether you choose to remain in your current space or choose an alternative you have a space that will meet the changing needs of your practice over the renewal term and you have negotiated the most cost effective terms. Too many practices skip this process and as a result leave significant money on the table but with prior planning you can make a positive difference in the outcome of your next renewal.

Stan Sharp is founder of HealthOne Realty Advisors. He can be reached at 770-578-4996 .

Will Your Money Grow in 2015?

Categories: Articles

2015_02_02As I think about last year and the upcoming year, I am moderately optimistic.  Last year began with most pundits prognosticating an increase in interest rates.  Many were calling for a 3.5% yield on the ten year treasury.  In fact, rates declined and the ten year treasury ended just under 2.20%.

I believe this occurred for a few reasons.  First, the economy continued to grow only modestly leading investors to remain cautious.  Second, the geo-political risks caused a continued flight to quality.  Russia’s antics in Ukraine created a highly disruptive force leading to a flight of capital seeking a safer haven e.g. U.S. treasuries.  Finally, weak economies in Europe and China caused foreign investors to seek safety.

According to Morningstar, Utilities and healthcare were among the top performing sectors indicating that investors remained defensive.  Under-performing sectors included energy, basic materials, industrials, and consumer discretionary.  I believe 2015 will be the year that companies implement more aggressive growth initiatives which should lead to job growth, capital investment, and increased mergers and acquisitions.  Following are a few catalysts which I believe could fuel the equity markets for 2015.

 

Oil

While such a rapid decrease in oil prices is disconcerting, I believe this has happened for a couple of reasons.  Supply in the U.S. energy complex is the leading reason followed by softening economies in China and Europe.  The downside is the spillover effect this will have on oil exporting nations such as Russia, Brazil, and Venezuela.  The upside is that U.S. consumers are benefiting by lower energy prices.  This not only helps consumers but also helps energy-dependent companies such as delivery companies, UPS and FedEx, retailers, airlines, distributors, and manufacturers.  In fact, almost any company heavily dependent upon oil should see improved profits.

 

Housing

The housing market could be a big driver for domestic economic expansion.  For this to occur, the job market needs to improve further.  That is, good paying jobs need to be created.  If this happens and if interest rates remain muted, then I expect the housing market to be a large contributor to U.S. GDP in 2015.  Housing prices, as shown in the Case Schiller Index, generally improved throughout the first half of 2014 and have flattened out for the remainder of the year.  This has resulted in increased equity.  This is fueling home renovations as demonstrated by the share price performance of companies such as Home Depot and Restoration Hardware.

 

Autos

Another major consumer discretionary sector, autos, saw continued improvement but this has yet to translate to increased share prices for the domestic manufacturers.  Ford and General Motors share prices were flat-to-down while auto production resumed a nearly record annual production of 16.4 million units according to ScotiaBank.  The U.S. average auto age is 11.4 years according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.  I expect low oil prices and the increasing need to replace autos to support record-level auto production and contribute to an improving U.S. GDP.  Interest rates and attractive financing along with an improving job market should underpin favorable fundamentals.

 

Political Landscape

I don’t expect a lot to get accomplished in Washington this year except for increased discussion in favor of tax reform.  The U.S. has a major need to revamp the corporate tax system; however, I am not optimistic that we will see that with the current administration.  I do expect to see this emerge as a major issue for the 2016 Presidential election.  The mere possibility of reform will be viewed as a positive.

The potential impact on the U.S. economy is enormous with a benefit being the repatriation of huge sums of money being locked up overseas.  This would afford companies the opportunity to reinvest in their businesses leading to job growth, capital investment, and increased mergers and acquisitions.  Unfortunately, I think we will have to wait until 2017 or 2018 to see the benefits.

 

Summary

Declining interest rates led to a huge run in utilities and the Affordable Care Act provided the fuel for a continued rally in healthcare.  I expect this year to be a turn in fortunes for cyclicals, financials, and consumer discretionary companies.  I also expect to see some technology companies benefit from corporate investment.

I remain cautiously optimistic.  With continued gridlock in Washington, there should be little opportunity for lopsided, anti-growth policy-making to ensue.  I believe, the positive, domestic fundamentals continue to outweigh the negatives.  The rest of the world still has “some wood to chop” with the EU and China most likely to incorporate stimulus measures to combat slowing economies.

Keep an eye on Russia as it has painted itself into a corner.  I only hope that this does not lead to a substantial increase in instability there and in the region.  A resolution in Ukraine could be a positive for Europe and would add stability to the region.

While not always pretty and certainly not always popular, the U.S. and democracy has once again demonstrated the strength of our system.  Things aren’t perfect and potential pitfalls remain.  However, in my view, there are more horses than there is manure.

Jay Cohen is the founder and President of Monterey Wealth.  He can be reached at 404-201-2284 or by email at jay.cohen@lpl.com.  Please check out the many resources at their website www.montereywealth.com

 

 

 

Best Ways for a New Private Practice Physician to Obtain Referrals

Categories: Articles

2015_02_01While working with a few “new” practices over the last several months, and helping them put strategies in place for getting as many patients in the door as soon as possible, I found an article online that mimicked some of my thoughts to a tee! At least it proved my thought process was still on track.

For new medical practices, the difference between success and failure can be attributed to how quickly and effectively they build a referral base. This can be a daunting task.

There are three main sources of referrals for practices:

– word-of-mouth

– marketing campaigns

– physician colleagues

One of these sources is likely to be successful and practical for most new practices.

Word-of-mouth is generally considered the gold standard for new patient acquisition. It is relatively easy for established private practices to experience word-of-mouth referrals, but new private practice physicians may not have the patient base to generate these types of referrals.

Marketing campaigns, presents another challenge, as marketing is often a financial drain for new physicians who have a smaller budget than their more-established counterparts.

Therefore, many new physicians rely mainly on referrals from physician colleagues to establish a referral base.

Obtaining referrals from other physicians may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind that will make the process much easier, but proper execution of these fundamentals is key.  Even well-established physicians should not rest on their laurels when it comes to these key components.

 

Make it easy

More than likely, a physician already sends referrals to another doctor.  If you’re looking to compete with these other doctors for referrals, one of the best ways is to simplify the referral process.  Good communication is essential in this endeavor.  Be direct, clear, and concise about what specific services and procedures you specialize in and what type of referrals you are seeking.  Furthermore, be very clear about what services or procedures distinguish your practice from the potential referrer’s existing referral patterns. Also, make yourself available; let the physician know that he can call you personally at any time for any reason.

 

Provide materials

Put together clear and concise information to give to other physicians.  This information can be presented in the form of a rack card, bullet-point list of services and specialties, or small informational packet or brochure.   However, don’t overwhelm a physician with too many materials.  Make sure any information you distribute to other doctors is completely necessary.  Also, provide enough materials for the physician to hand out to patients; this makes patient communication easier while allowing you to keep your voice and image intact.

Over the years, printed referral pads have been a great tool to give out to the referring physicians (or their referral coordinator). Clean, easy to fill out, including a printed map on the back to your office location(s) has been one of the best tools to increase the referral rate.

 

Communicate regularly

Avoid becoming complacent once you obtain your referral sources.  Make sure to maintain regular contact and provide follow-up information to referring physicians on any patients they refer.  Let them know your plans for the patient and how long you intend to follow them.  Also, know what types of patient referrals the referring physicians are seeking and refer other patients to them as necessary.  Finally, be sure to say “thank you” to your referral sources, send cards, and let them know they are appreciated.

In summary, obtaining and maintaining a strong referral base is imperative to developing a successful private practice. Like any good relationship, it is imperative to start with a solid foundation.  Keeping the fundamentals in mind might make the difference between a successful practice and one that struggles.

Provided by Sheila Fox-Lovell, President of Shandy Creative Solutions (770-951-0305 or sheila@shandycreative.com)

Manager of the Month

Categories: Practice Manager of the Month

201502_managerofthemonthLeslie N. Fortson, Practice Manager
Vein Specialists of the South

 

How long have you been at this practice and what were you doing prior to being here?

I have been the practice manager for 9 years, and prior to that, I was a practice manager for another vein specialist in Columbia, SC for about 1 ½ years.

 

What do you enjoy about your job?

I really like working with the people in our offices and with the patients that we serve. I like to help people grow and see them reach their potential. With my staff, I try to expand their roles and current capabilities, and help them learn a new skill set. People like to be challenged and feel as though they have progressed and accomplished something. I like helping them get there.

 

What 2 tips can you off your colleagues about being a successful practice manager?

  • Focus on your team– Invest resources (time and money) on your staff to keep them current and feeling as part of the team. I try to make sure they stay as informed as possible.
  • Perspective – When you approach issues or problems within the practice, you have a choice; to be positive or negative. We have built a culture where our approach is always to be positive. I like to think of this culture and effort as our “internal marketing”.

 

How is this important or valuable to the practice?

We try to model our practice environment as if it were a Ritz-Carlton. That starts with what we call “WOW” service, and an expectation that we truly care about our patients in every way. At a Ritz-Carlton there is never any negativity, and every service or task is not a problem to the customer. At our patients’ first visit, they find out everything they need to know – we leave nothing to chance, and no surprises. It is this mentality that has allowed us to maintain a near 100% satisfaction rating among our patient base.

 

Who gave you advice about being successful and what was their advice to you?

I have a business coach who I meet with every week to discuss a variety of things. Because he is not medical specific, he gives me perspective on how to deal with people and expectations, as well and good ideas that I can implement within the practice.

 

What hobbies or special interests do you have?

With the little spare time I have, I spend it with my 5 year old son who keeps me busy.

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