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Maximizing patient safety in group practices is the target of a new initiative by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).
The patient safety initiative will include educational programs, research, communications and advocacy.
Education programs for members of MGMA are currently in the works, according to William F. Jessee, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Englewood, CO-based organization.
The aim of the patient safety initiative is to help member organizations understand and control incidents and accidents in group practice and ambulatory care settings, systems failures that lead to patient injury, organizational and human factors associated with accidents, delivery system changes, and other mechanisms for achieving maximum safety.
Issues such as treatment side effects and complications, quality of care, and malpractice or tort law reform will not be addressed.
"The safety of patients in health care organizations is a visible and growing concern to both the public and the profession. Yet, little or no research data have been developed on patient safety and risks of injury in ambulatory group practice settings," Jessee says.
He stressed that the initiative does not imply that medical practices are unsafe, but that it is part of MGMA’s commitment to "serve and improve the health of our communities."
If your physician practice is owned by a hospital, you may be in for more scrutiny from the Health Care Financing Administration.
A recent report by the federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that HCFA require hospitals to report all physician practice and clinic purchases and declare how the operating cost of physician practices are handled in hospital cost reports.
The OIG estimates that 62% of for-profit and not-for-profit general short-term hospitals own a physician practice but that the Medicare fiscal intermediaries know about the ownership only half of the time.
At issue is the hospital practice of designating the physician practice as provider-based instead of freestanding. This provider-based designation allows the hospitals to include the cost of operating the physician offices in the hospital cost report, which can result in higher reimbursement than if the physician practice is designated a freestanding entity.
The OIG recommends that HCFA change its policy and eliminate the provider-based designation for hospital-owned physician practices and that hospitals be sanctioned if they fail to report their ownership of physician practices.
Starting in July 2000, health plans must establish procedures that allow patients to appeal medical decisions to an outside body and permit patients to continue to see a physician who has left the plan if the plan wants to be accredited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
Under the proposed standards, a patient who exhausts a plan’s internal appeals process will have the right to a hearing before an independent review organization. Patients already have that right in about 20 states, as do all federal employees and Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in managed care plans.
The draft also stipulates that members who are currently under an active course of treatment, such as new mothers, pregnant women, or patients receiving chemotherapy, must be allowed to continue seeing their physician for up to 90 days after the physician leaves the health plan.