Archive for month: September, 2016

6 Advantages for a Practice of a Self-Insured Fully Funded Small Group Health Plan

Categories: Articles

healthcareThe Affordable Care Act does not allow for any rate consideration for the overall health condition on fully insured small group health plans for a Practice. Fully insured small group health plans are written and renewed with rates that are the same whether a group is very healthy or very sick. In essence healthy fully insured Practices must subsidize the cost for sicker ones.

Self Insured Fully Funded (SIFF) small group health plans are allowed to underwrite and set rates for each Practice based on the health of that group. By going through this process a Practice can see the fair price based on the health of their Staff. The bottom line is healthier groups WILL save money. How does it work? Below are 6 advantages.

1. Underwriting Based on Age, Sex, Health and Lifestyle: With a fully insured plan, the healthier and younger groups must subsidize the cost for older and less healthy groups. The underwriting process used for self insured but fully funded plans allows you to be charged the correct amount for your Practice, rather than being included in a community rated traditional plan.

2. Tax Savings: Practices with SIFF (ERISA) plans save on state insurance taxes. The ACA “HIT” does not apply to SIFF plans. This is a large cost to insurers of fully insured health plans.

3. Not subject to State Mandates: Carriers selling fully insured plans must spend large amounts of resources to comply with the hundreds of different State mandates. With SIFF plans, a Practice selects the benefits that work best for them.

4. MUCH more latitude in plan designs: All ACA plans fall into four categories: Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze. Benefits have to match up to one of those categories. With SIFF plans there are a large number of deductibles, co-insurance, co pays, prescription benefits and other options that allow a Practice to customize a plan that works best for them; i.e. a Practice is not limited to the “one size fits all” metal plans designs.

5. “Money Back” from Claims fund: In years that claims are less than funded for the money left over in the claims fund belongs to the Practice.

6. Monthly Claims Reports: The Practice receives monthly claims reports showing where healthcare dollars are being used.

In summary, savings for a healthier Practice result from underwriting, fewer mandates, more latitude in plan designs, tax savings and a refund of claims funds. In many cases these savings are significant. And for Practices that go through underwriting and find out they are not as healthy as they thought, they simply stay in the community rated fully insured pool until their overall health improves.

More good news: With over 50 years of combined experience, The Principals of The Medical Practice Resource Group can help. We combine a high-tech and high-touch approach to offer you the best plans, latest technology, and personalized service for any size Practice. The MPRG is an independent agency so we bring you the best insurance company for your needs. We offer health, life, dental, vision, disability, long-term care, critical illness, accident, identity theft, legal plans, and pet insurance.

And we’ll give you – as in FREE – all the tools to manage your Practice – like our customizable HR software that includes HRIS, on boarding, benefits, payroll, COBRA, ACA compliance, and an app.

Provided by Steven M. Clement, RHU, REBC, ACA Certified Specialist – Senior Partner – The Medical Practice Resource Group (770-518-7097 or Steven@THEmprg.com)

SEO Program Triples Keywords and Page Visits for Urology of Greater Atlanta

Categories: Articles

seo

By: | August 15th, 2016

In the highly competitive fields of specialty medicine, Urology of Greater Atlanta was hiding in plain sight. The practice with seven locations in metro Atlanta wasn’t generating enough website traffic through the Google searches that are common. Optimizing their website has put them clearly in the sights of potential patients, who typically base their searches on both the practice and its location.

NicheLabs began their search engine optimization (SEO) program with a study of keywords based on the search terms patients are likely to use. Not having enough of the right keywords made finding them on Google the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. We use a variety of tools and our digital marketing expertise to analyze keywords used by competitors in a geographic area and then work with our clients to select the ones most likely to yield the targeted results.

SEO programs are long-term, dynamic engagements that undergo continuous refinements. Adjustments are made as new information is gathered to account for the terms that show themselves to be more effective. Our process has been a function of fairly regular observation of the effectiveness of their keywords in their chosen cities, proper management of pages with those city names, proper keyword density and other optimization techniques. We regularly update services such as Google’s Webmaster Tools with structured information to help search engines understand certain elements of a site without having to guess. We also use geo tagging (longitude, latitude) to help search engines know where a business, sitemap and robots.txt management, and fast and regular updates/redirects of any 404 error pages.

Adjustments are always required. SEO isn’t a “fire and forget” process. It requires fairly active engagement with on-site content and awareness of social changes and product changes, which can affect the keywords people are using to find goods and services. A site needs to be updated accordingly to keep up with the times.

We add to that effectiveness by entering our clients’ listings in the local directories that are most likely to generate page rankings that result in better visibility. Although a Google search can generate millions of links in a matter of seconds, most potential patients will only look at the first and maybe the second page of results. Positioning is critical.

With our research, we were able to increase the number of keywords on the first page of results from 4 to 12 and increase the keywords on the second page to 8. This was accomplished during the course of more than 18 months. For page one, that’s a three-fold increase.

Some other impressive results:

  • Their average keyword position improved by 95%
  • Their bounce rate dropped by about 10% and has held that advantage steadily for the past five months.
  • Since we started tracking their SEO and analytics, we have helped drive
    • 55,526 visits
    • 35,533 new users
    • 130,180 page views
    • 3,836 Contact Page visitors

If you’d like to validate your customers’ context with your website, SEO program or other marketing activities, we invite you to contact us at 888-978-9254, or by sending us an email using our website contact form.  We love to talk about marketing, best practices for SEO programs, brand messaging and content strategy.

Provided by Todd Withrow, Founder of NicheLabs, LLC (888.978.9254 or twithrow@nichelabs.com).

Tips for Talking Money with Your Aging Parent

Categories: Articles

couple_moneyBy Shelly Gigante

The topic of money and finances may be taboo in many homes, but it is also one that should not be ignored, especially between adult children and their aging parents.

Indeed, whether or not it ever becomes necessary to handle their parent’s financial affairs, children in their 40s, 50s and 60s need to ensure that Mom and Dad have the legal documents in place to protect their estate and clarify their wishes for when the time comes, said Maureen Demers, a Certified Financial Planner® professional in North Andover, Massachusetts.

“Have this conversation as early as you can,” said Demers, noting the “money talk” should occur well before cognitive impairment becomes a threat. “You at least want to open the door to communication, which a lot of times will be ongoing.”

Families often delay the discussion, she said in an interview, because it can be uncomfortable. They may also fear that it could be construed as invasive.

When working with clients who have aging parents, Ronald Oldano, a Certified Financial Planner® professional with Ameriprise Financial in Wesley Chapel, Florida, said he tries to communicate that older generations often regard money matters as highly personal. 

“This is a generation that was taught to keep financial information private and never share it openly,” he said in an interview. “Even if they need help, they may not know how to ask for it.”

Aging parents may also resent the role reversal in which their kids are now the caretakers. Thus, sensitivity is key.

“You need to make it clear that you respect their needs and concerns, but tell them what your concerns are as well,” said Oldano.

For example, perhaps you are saving for your kids’ education and need to know if that may be affected by unforeseen expenses related to your parents’ future housing or medical care. “Tell them you want to talk about what they are planning so you can be prepared for it,” said Oldano.

Likewise, it helps to explain that having their estate planning ducks in a row could help prevent potential infighting among the loved ones they leave behind, which is common in times of emotional stress.

Broaching the Subject of Money and Estate Planning

One way to break the ice is to open up about your own estate planning.

“A good way to back into the conversation is to bring up your own experience,” said Demers. “Say, ‘Hey, we are creating a will or trust and this is what we learned. Have you thought about who gets your stuff, how much taxes will be, and what if you get sick?’ You might find that the aging parent is interested in sharing, but just hasn’t found a way to bring up the topic. They may welcome the conversation.”

A recent death – either in the news or within the family – is another easy point of entry, planners suggest.

Or, you can just blame your financial professional, said Howard Pressman, a Certified Financial Planner® professional with Evan Berger & Weiner, a financial planning firm in Vienna, Virginia, in an email interview.

“If necessary, the children can say, ‘I’m not asking what’s in it or for any specifics, I just promised my financial professional I would ask if you have them and how old they are,’” said Pressman, noting estate planning documents should be reviewed, and updated if needed, every few years.

What You Need to Know

Remember, the purpose of having “the money talk” with your parent(s) is not to find out how much they have in the bank, or whether they intend to leave you an inheritance.

Rather, your goal is to ensure they have sufficient savings to meet their needs, adequate insurance to cover future medical and long-term care costs and that they have designated individuals (power of attorneys) to make financial and medical decisions on their behalf if they become ill or mentally incapacitated.

Equally important, your parents should have a living will, a written legal document that defines their wishes for end-of-life care, including the use of respirators and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, said Pressman.

Be sure, too, that whomever your parent(s) selected to act as executor of their estate has been given keys to any safety deposit boxes and the names of their banking firms, life insurance company and mortgage lender, along with account numbers and online passwords where relevant.

The future executor should also be provided the names and contact information for their parents’ attorneys, financial planners and accountants.

“Ask them for a spreadsheet or written list of what bills they have and how they pay them,” suggested Andrew Jamison, a Certified Financial Planner® professional with Main Avenue Financial Services in Beaverton, Oregon. “Odds are, in an elderly couple, one person has handled the bills for a long time and as soon as that person is gone the surviving spouse is lost. They have to manage their money for the first time while grieving the loss of their spouse. I encourage clients to communicate with their kids not only their wishes, but also information on how they pay their bills and what they owe.”

If you use your own financial professional, Jamison also recommends getting a second opinion on your parents’ estate plan.

“When dealing with parents and their money, we simply want to have one or two additional sets of eyes,” he said. “I find it shocking that everyone gets a second opinion when they get a medical diagnosis but very few people get second opinions on what their financial person suggests.”

When to Step In

The time may also come where it is necessary to intervene.

Signs that your aging parent(s) may need help managing their financial affairs include late fees on bills, unpaid taxes, calls from creditors and inappropriate investment decisions.

You may also suspect that Mom or Dad are being targeted by scam artists, or see large donations to a questionable charity.

The need to assume a more hands-on role may be temporary, if related to a short-term illness or medication side effect, or it may be for good.

To assist individuals who serve as financial caregivers (including agents under a power of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees, and government fiduciaries), the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides an online brochure, “Guides for Managing Some Else’s Money.”

The Bureau also offers a resource guide called “Money Smart for Older Adults – Prevent Financial Exploitation” to help prevent elder financial exploitation.

By discussing plans for handling your parents’ financial affairs before they show signs of decline, and keeping the lines of communication open, said Demer, you will be better positioned to help your parents protect their assets when the time comes.

“There comes a point where you might begin to notice that things are slipping,” she said. “But if you have had this conversation and discussed what they want to have happen if they get sick or can no longer take care of their money, it is much easier to broach the subject.”

Provided by Joshua C. Harper, CFP®, CLU®, of WealthMD (877-Our-MDPlan or jharper@wealthmd.com).

Crypto-Ransomware & Health Care: Protecting Your Health Care Entity

Categories: Articles

2016_05_graph

Crypto-Ransomware is spreading through the health care industry and its results can be devastating. Medicus can protect your entity and its patients.

The healthcare industry is quickly becoming ground zero for a new wave of malware/virus attacks that threaten not just patient information security but the stability and use of entire organizations’ information systems and their ability to deliver uninterrupted care. These attacks are being carried out by a vein of viruses that have grown in popularity and effectiveness over the last few years. Called “crypto-ransomware” (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-295A), these viruses are capable of hijacking entire networks, rendering all connected computers and drives unusable in an encrypted state until the victims pay the ransom.

Crypto-Ransomware: The Growing Threat To Health Care.

For years, these sorts of attacks were largely limited to individual users. As the creators of this malicious software have become more savvy, they have started to focus their efforts towards industries that appear to be easier targets for higher paydays. Enter: The Health Care industry. As we have discussed in recent articles, the Health Care industry has lagged behind in its introduction of effective security and encryption policies and everyone (including hackers) know it. As a result, individuals and organizations with bad intentions regularly look to exploit industry vulnerabilities in order to get access to patient records that can go upwards of $50 per record. Cisco Talos Research has revealed that there are also several new strains of crypto-ransomware that are designed to skip end users and instead attack the often times vulnerable server infrastructures themselves. End-users and servers are now being actively targeted to great effect.

The Impact of Crypto-Ransomware In The Last Month Alone On Health Care.

The results have been devastating and the impact of this increased aggression was made clear just a few weeks ago when multiple hospitals acknowledged that they had been forced to take their computer systems offline in response to network-wide crypto-ransomware infestations. One of the latest disruptions came on March 28th when MedStar Health admitted that a malware infestation had forced a shutdown of a number of systems across its Baltimore hospitals. In a Facebook post, a MedStar spokesman said,

“MedStar Health’s IT system was affected by a virus that prevents certain users from logging-in to our system. MedStar acted quickly with a decision to take down all system interfaces to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the organization. We are working with our IT and Cyber-security partners to fully assess and address the situation.”.

Ransomware was believed to have been involved in the situation.

Image: Crypto-Ransomware hits Chino Valley Medical Center in California - Medicus Solutions

MedStar was only one of the latest victims. Around the same time of the MedStar infection, Methodist Hospital in Henderson Kentucky was forced to pay a reported $17,000 ransom in order to restore their hospital systems, not including the additional man hours from IT staff. In California, Chino Valley Medical Center and Desert Valley Medical Center were forced to shut down numerous systems. According to their spokesperson their IT team was able to contain the crypto-ransomware outbreak, but it still caused significant disruptions at several other hospitals and affiliate care providers who shared systems.

What Health Care Entities Can Do To Protect Themselves

Along with safe browsing habits, Medicus Solutions recommend the use of our new Medi-Filtering service to our clients. We have negotiated terrific pricing to provide this to our clients for only $2 per user per month. This service will allow you to block those websites that are not centered around your business and can help keep your staff more productive at the same time while adding another layer of protection!

Over the past few months, our team at Medicus Solutions has also begun deploying Medi-Security – our new medical software security solution. Powered by OpenDNS, it adds another layer to security for every client. We have included this at our expense with no additional cost to our valued clients. This solution helps provide another level to attempt to block suspicious downloads which represents the traditional entry point for crypto-ransomware. While again, no solution is 100% effective, we believe this added layer of security can help with a number of scenarios. Additionally, Medicus Solutions will be rolling out a new Medi-Antivirus – our brand new medical antivirus software solution –  in the upcoming months to all clients. It is in many ways a new, unseen level of Antivirus security and we’re very excited about it. Stay tuned for more information in the upcoming few weeks.

If you are a Medicus Solutions client and wish to have Medi-Filtering enabled on your network, please send an email to sales@msinc.com and our sales team will create a quote for you to have this deployed. If you are not a Medicus Solutions client, we’d love to talk to you about how we can help your organization increase its software and patient information security protocols and systems. We can support all major HMR systems and help your entity meet and exceed HIPAA expectations, avoiding breaches and the fallout that comes after. Read about our services and contact us today.

Final Thoughts

The reality is that every industry transitioning into broad networked services are unprepared and poorly equipped for the security challenges that are in front of them. Unlike in most industries, the stakes found in health care couldn’t be higher. Whether your health care entity partners with Medicus Solutions or not, we strongly encourage you to do everything you can to ensure the security of your organization. We encourage you to review our article on the upcoming HIPAA auditing as well to ensure your entity is meeting the expectations of the Department of Health and Human Services.

About Medicus Solutions:

Medicus Solutions, LLC (http://msinc.com/) is an Alpharetta, GA based company that specializes in providing IT management solutions to improve the efficiency, security and stability of your company’s operations. Medicus offers a range of IT services that work both independently and in unison to ensure your company operates securely, seamlessly and efficiently. Featuring secure email and backup services, virtual hosting services, HIPAA-approved file encryption systems, and much more. For more information about Medicus Solutions, please call our main office in Alpharetta at 678-495-5900 or visit our website.

Medicus Solutions writes about news, technologies, and educational topics that are defining the future of health care IT solutions and security issues at its blog: http://msinc.com/blog/

Provided by Chris Jann, President & CEO, Medicus Solutions (678.495.5902 or cjann@msinc.com).

Practice Manager of the Month

Categories: Practice Manager of the Month

Van HendryVan Hendry
Chief Operating Officer, Coastal Cardiology, P.A.

Van Hendry is the Chief Operating Officer at Coastal Cardiology in Charleston, SC.  Coastal Cardiology is an independent practice with three locations and serving the Charleston area for 30 years.  The practice has six doctors and three physician assistants and continues to grow.  Prior to working at Coastal Cardiology, Van worked at a urology office.  He enjoys working in medical specialties.  Van is originally from Pittsburgh, spent time in Washington D. C. and has now been in Charleston for 12 years.

Van loves working in healthcare as no two days are the same.  He likes variety and helping people by improving their quality of life. He has great doctors to work with that provide quality healthcare.  Van likes to kick off the day with a plan of attack when he comes in, but he finds that the whole day shifts quickly and it’s never boring.

Some tips that Van would like to share with colleagues is to be involved in the day to day operations.  Take the time, even in a large practice, to know your patients. Take the time to meet them and ask how patient care is going.  It also important to network with colleagues in the industry to know what is going on with other practices and how that might affect your own practice.  Van networks with a group of independent specialists.  They gather quarterly, sometimes for a presentation, but most often to talk about current challenges and share opinions and possible solutions.  He finds it invaluable to have new perspectives and fresh ideas.  Van states, ‘the challenge with healthcare is that the pace of change is accelerating, and you’ve got to stay ahead of the pace of change.’ When working with an independent practice, it’s important to have other people help you see the horizon.

Some of the best advice that Van received is to not get boxed into a mindset on how to solve a problem.  He shared a story of a colleague who asked him what a Sloan valve is.  Being in the medical industry, Van continued to think through all the various heat valves and other medical devices.  The answer was that you see one every day, all flush handles are made by Sloan.  He realized that he got stuck thinking from the perspective of medical that he didn’t think of other uses for valves.   It’s a lifelong lesson that he carries with him not to get stuck on one way of looking at something and to think beyond.  Networking helps give him the fresh perspective.

When speaking with Jeffrey Rieder, MD, he had this to say about Van, “Van has been with our practice for over two years and has quickly become an integral part of Coastal Cardiology. He has streamlined our operations and has developed outstanding relationships with many of our external vendors. Having him onboard allows us as providers to concentrate on treating patients.”

Van feels that even if he quit working, he wouldn’t have enough time to do everything he wants to do.  He enjoys travel, photography, working on his antique car, and reading about history.  He has travelled to Africa, Canada, Caribbean, and Europe.  He’s currently planning a trip to Quebec.  Good thing his wife has the same travel bug.

Van Hendry was nominated by Bart Segal, Tri-Med Solutions.  He enjoys that Bart often talks about the changes with healthcare and how a lot of it affects EMR.  Van feels that Bart can help connect people that can help him be successful.

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