telemedicine-redaway

Telemedicine Part One: Changing Healthcare for the Better

In this three-part series, we’ll analyze the growing use of telemedicine and the pros and cons associated. We’ll take a deeper look into what is telemedicine, how it’s changing healthcare, the regulations and guidelines involved, quality vs. convenience, and ultimately who is pay for it.

We’ll riddle each post with plenty of statistics, polls, and other fact-finding information, as well as let you know where you can read further on many of the issues (such as here).


Over the last 40 years, the use of telemedicine has seen major growth, but it’s the last few years that have helped it spread rapidly. We’re now seeing full blown integrations into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies, private physician offices, and even consumer’s homes and workplaces.

This growth in telemedicine allows organizations like Doctors Without Borders to relay questions from physicians in underprivileged countries to its network of over 280 experts around the world, and back again via the internet and other telecoms.

So, how would one formally define telemedicine? It’s pretty simple:

Telemedicine is the exchange of medical information from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.

Driven by quicker internet speeds, pervasive smartphones and ever-changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs—and it’s upending the delivery of healthcare.

For example, a growing number of doctors are linking up with patients by phone, email and webcam. They also practice consulting with each other electronically—sometimes even making split-second decisions on heart attacks and strokes. Patients, meanwhile, are using new devices to relay their blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions at home.

Telemedicine also allows for better care in places where medical expertise is hard to come by.

As we mentioned, several times a day Doctors Without Borders will relay questions about tough cases from its physicians in Niger, South Sudan and elsewhere to its network.

Likewise, shifts of doctors and nurses work around the clock in Mercy Health’s new Virtual Care Center, a “hospital without beds” that provides remote support for intensive-care units, emergency rooms and other programs in 38 smaller hospitals across the Southeastern US. Many of the included healthcare centers don’t have a physicians on-site 24/7.

In the TeleICU section of Mercy, critical-care doctors sit at oversized video monitors that continually collect data on every far-flung ICU patient and can spot signs of imminent trouble. If a patient needs attention, Mercy physicians can zoom in via two-way camera—close enough to read the tiny print on an IV bag.

“It’s almost like being at the bedside…I can’t shock a patient, but I can give an order to the nurses there,” says Vinaya Sermadevi, a critical-care specialist.

In the past year, ICUs monitored by Mercy specialists have seen a 35% decrease in patients’ average length of stay and 30% fewer deaths than anticipated. “That translates to 1,000 people who were expected to die who got to go home instead,” says Randy Moore, president of Mercy Virtual.

So is the Virtual Doctor is on the Rise?

In the last year, the number of virtual doctors visits has grown 12-fold, from 1 million to 12 million. Additionally, the number of employers offering telemedicine benefits has grown from 48% to over 75% since last year.

So what does this rise prove? Well for starters, 72% of hospitals and 52% of physician groups offer telemedicine programs. It’s these kinds of positive statistics that show us telemedicine is on the rise and here to stay.

As a measure of how rapidly telemedicine is spreading, consider this: In 2015, over 15 million Americans received some kind of remote medical care; and that number is expected to grow by roughly 30% just this year.

However, none of this is to say that telemedicine has found its way into all corners of medicine. A recent survey of 500 tech-savvy consumers by HealthMine found that 39% hadn’t heard of telemedicine, and of those who haven’t used it, 42% said they preferred in-person doctor visits. In a poll of 1,500 family physicians, only 15% had used it in their practices—but 90% said they would it if were appropriately reimbursed.

What’s more, for all the rapid growth, significant questions and challenges remain. Rules defining and regulating telemedicine differ widely from state to state and are constantly evolving. Physicians groups are issuing different guidelines about what care they consider appropriate to deliver in what forum.

Some critics also question whether the quality of care is keeping up with the rapid expansion of telemedicine. And there’s the question of what services physicians should be paid for: Insurance coverage varies from health plan to health plan, and a big federal plans covers only a narrow range of services.

Telemedicine’s future will depend on how—and whether—regulators, providers, payers and patients can address these challenges.

 

healthy-environment

Keeping our Environment Healthy: The Effects of Biohazard & Medical Waste

Keeping out environment healthy isn’t easy. Doing so requires each and every person to make a conscious effort to keep our world clean, whether through recycling or proper disposal of garbage.

However, healthcare workers have an even bigger role following very specific protocols in order to keep contaminants away from themselves, colleagues and patients. Furthermore, this biohazard and medical waste can have a direct impact on the environment if mishandled.

Wildlife and Pharmaceuticals

If healthcare workers are not careful, improperly handled biohazard and medical waste can accidentally end up close to wildlife refuges. Lakes, parks and others areas are natural habitats for birds, animals and various fauna. The colors and scents of spilled medications are curious attractions to such wildlife, and as a result, wildlife may consume the medications out of curiosity, ultimately injuring or killing an animal.

Contaminating Groundwater

Landfills are carefully constructed to keep waste in a controlled area. They’re even lined with specific materials so that nearby soil and groundwater isn’t contaminated. Improper biohazard waste disposal, however, can compromise even the best landfill designs. Syringes dumped into a regular landfill can easily rip into the lining. As rain falls in the future, any contaminants in the landfill will filter into the exterior soil. The groundwater becomes polluted as a result.

Possible Radioactivity Pollution

Doctors use a myriad of tools and devices for diagnostic purposes, some of which are disposable and radioactive. When these items are mishandled, radioactivity can enter landfills and other areas. Radioactive substances also give off particles that are dangerous to humans. In fact, excessive exposure to radioactivity can lead to serious diseases.

It’s crucial for healthcare workers to maintain strict guidelines when it comes to radioactive medical waste.

Airborne Pollutants

A strong alternative to landfill disposal is incineration, which is the destruction of medical waste through burning. However, improper ignition can create pollutants that merely move through the air. Incineration facilities must be able to maintain a certain temperature in order to destroy every atom of waste. If not, airborne pollutants may have worse effects than land-based methods because of their spreading ability.


 

It’s important for every person near biohazard waste to be aware of it’s handling. If an obvious error is being observed, such as soiled linens entering a regular trash can, observers need to speak up. Everyone has a responsibility to protect the environment from improper biohazard waste disposal. The Earth and its resources will be protected even more with diligent minds caring for the environment.

medical waste washing ashore

Medical Waste Washing Ashore: Who’s In Charge of Regulation?

Earlier this month, Durban, South Africa, the country’s second largest city, was forced to shut down four of its most popular beaches due to piles of medical waste and general debris washing ashore.

South Africa is now in a frenzied rush to find who (and mort specifically what landfill) is responsible for this monstrosity.

But as we read up on Durban’s news, we were reminded of a story from almost 30 years ago and the resulting regulations. Thus we began to wonder, who really is in charge of regulating our country’s medical waste?

The following story comes from a 2o11 article on emagazine.com:

The Syringe Tide, 1987-88

Medical waste washing up on New Jersey beaches was a big problem in the late 1980s, closing beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the New Jersey shore. For months, officials  scrambled to figure out where the waste was coming from, and eventually zeroed in on New York City’s Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island. Below-par systems there were not successfully containing medical waste and other garbage, and thus NJ beaches (as well as vacationers and business owners) were paying the price. Although no one was injured or exposed to disease by the washed up waste, the public was especially alarmed given the HIV/AIDS crisis gripping the nation at that time. NYC was required to pay $1 million for past pollution damages and had to shoulder the cost of clean-up on Jersey Shore beaches, as well.

The resulting loss of tourism cost business owners throughout the affected region as much as 40 percent of their revenue, with total losses estimated at well over $1 billion. Some New Jersey business owners remain upset that New York wasn’t forced to pay them reparations for lost revenue as well.

The Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988

In the wake of the Syringe Tide scare, Congress enacted the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988, requiring the EPA to create a program to better track medical waste from cradle-to-grave, so that it didn’t end up fouling beaches or any other environments. Though the program was not renewed when it expired in 1991, it served as a model for how states and municipalities could better track potentially dangerous medical waste, while also helping medical facilities institute processes for knowing where their waste was going and that it was being disposed of responsibly.

Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey have since coordinated on setting up and maintaining their own systems to stem the so-called “syringe tides.” The cornerstone is a multi-agency program designed to intercept debris within New Jersey Harbor before it can get to tourist-crowded Jersey Shore beaches. Thanks to the plan—which relies on surveillance by environmental groups as well as routine and special clean-up sweeps by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the implementation of a communications network to facilitate the reporting of incidents and quick responses—beach closures declined from more than 70 miles in 1988 to less than four miles in 1989, with closures remaining at similarly low levels ever since.

Of course, medical waste is hardly the only problem facing America’s beaches and coastal waters. According to the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), bacterial contamination from sewage treatment outflows, contaminated storm water and other sources caused more than 24,000 beach closures or advisories across the country in 2010 alone. NRDC reports on water quality at U.S. beaches every year in its series of “Testing the Waters” reports. Pressure from the group has helped spur the EPA to agree to overhaul Clean Water Act regulations pertaining to urban and suburban storm water runoff and update decades-old beach water quality standards by 2012. These improvements should help to keep beaches from the Jersey Shore to the Great Lakes to California, and points in between, clear of debris and safe for swimmers and sunbathers of every stripe.

Sources:

http://www.emagazine.com/earth-talk/medical-waste-on-beaches

http://www.enca.com/south-africa/municipality-works-around-the-clock-to-clean-durban-beaches

medical waste market

The Five Treatments Fueling the Medical Waste Market

A new study from Transparency Market Research (TMR), a market intelligence company, says that the technical developments resulting in the adoption of non-incineration technologies and the increasing government regulation and legislations globally are amongst the chief factors fueling the medical waste market.

In addition, the expansion of the healthcare industry globally and the increasing count of off-site treatment methods have also impacted the market positively. So, we know that healthcare activities are aimed at curing patients, protecting the health of individuals, and saving lives.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 85% of the total amount of waste generated through healthcare activities is general and non-hazardous in nature. But, these healthcare activities also generate waste which may aid the spread of infectious diseases or cause injuries. Thus, the remaining 15% is hazardous material that may be radioactive or toxic in nature.

Poor waste management may jeopardize patients and their families, employees handling medical waste, care staff and the others who come in contact with it, and even result in pollution or environmental contamination. However, these risks can be significantly reduced using appropriate and simple measures. A number of new technologies have also penetrated the market to make this job easier. The working of these waste management systems has been elaborated below:

Treatments Fueling the Medical Waste Market

1. Incineration Technology

Incineration comprises a very high-temperature, thermal process and allows combustion of waste in controlled conditions to convert it into inert gases and materials. Incinerators often are either electrically powered, oil-fired, or a combination of both. Incinerators utilized for hospital waste management are of three main types, namely: controlled air, multiple hearth, or rotary kiln. All of these incinerators comprise both primary, as well as secondary, combustion chambers for ensuring an optimal combustion.

  • Controlled Air – commonly used for waste with organic matter, this process combusts and oxidizes waste, leading to a stream of gas with a CO2 and water vapor mixture
  • Multiple Hearth – a circular steel furnace containing solid refractory hearths with a central rotating shaft converts waste into ash
  • Rotary Kiln – a drum-shaped incinerator commonly used for medical and hazardous waste

Non-Incineration Technology:

This treatment incorporates four key processes, namely: chemical, thermal, biological, and irradiative. Non-incineration technologies majorly employee chemical, as well as thermal processes. The key aim of this treatment technology is the decontamination of waste by destroying of the pathogens.

2. Irradiation (i.e. Microwave)

Microwave Irradiation is based upon the principle of generating high-frequency waves inside of a microwave (no, not a real microwave oven). The waves cause the vibration of the particles present within the waste material and thus generate heat (but just like a microwave oven). The heat generated from this wave will kill all bacteria present or any other contamination in the tools.

3. Chemical and Plasma Pyrolysis

Chemical decontamination is primarily used for microbiology lab waste, human blood, sharps and bodily fluids, but cannot be used for anatomical waste (i.e. body parts).

Plasma Pyrolysis is state-of-the-art technology that might just be the most eco-friendly technology on the list, converting organic waste into by-products, which are then commercially used. The extreme heat generated by plasma results in the disposal of all kinds of wastes including biomedical waste, municipal solid waste, and hazardous waste in a reliable and safe manner.

4. Biological

This method employs enzymes to destroy organic matters found in medical waste. But while this sounds great, few non-incineration technologies have been based on this biological method. In fact,  this enzyme breakdown process is vastly underdeveloped and rarely every used.

5. Autoclaving

Autoclaving, a rather well-known process now, works on the principle of a standard pressure cooker and involves the utilization of heat at extremely high temperatures. The steam generated at these high temperatures kills all microorganisms in the medical waste. Autoclaving is of three main types, namely: pre-vacuum, retort, and gravity. Autoclaving is often used for bodily fluid waste, sharps, and microbiology lab waste.

The market for medical waste management is poised to experience exponential growth owing to a plethora of treatment technologies available in the market for medical waste management. However, the soaring costs of initial investments of these technologies may have a negative impact on the growth of the market.

 

The market for medical waste management is poised to experience exponential growth owing to a plethora of treatment technologies available in the market for medical waste management. However, the soaring costs of initial investments of these technologies may have a negative impact on the growth of the market.


Sources:

http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/2929342#ixzz47t2LYBNn

Medical Waste Disposal – The Definitive Guide

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treating medical waste

“On-Site” vs. “Off-Site”: Guidelines for Treating Medical Waste

The following information is based on requirement guidelines from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ). For more information, please visit their permit information on Managing and Disposing of Medical Waste.


Meaning of the Terms “On-Site” and “Off-Site”

The terms “on-site” and “off-site” are often used in reference to the location where medical waste was generated. Before jumping into the actual treatment of medical waste, we wanted to briefly outline the difference between the two as governed under the Title 30 Texas Administrative Code (30 TAC).

On-Site:

According to the rule in 30 TAC §330.1205 explains that “medical waste managed on property that is owned or effectively controlled by one entity and that is within 75 miles of the point of generation or at an affiliated facility shall be considered to be managed on-site.” An affiliated facility refers to a health care-related facility generating medical waste that is routinely stored, processed, and/or disposed of on a shared basis in an integrated medical waste management unit owned or operated by a hospital, and located within a contiguous health care complex.

Off-Site:

Medical waste management practices that do not meet the above criteria are simply regarded as off-site management.


Treating Medical Waste

Medical waste may be treated on-site, or off-site at an authorized treatment facility, following the requirements of 30 TAC §330.1219 and 25 TAC §1.136.

On-Site Treatment

On-site treatment may be conducted by a waste generator, provided the generator notifies the TCEQ as required under 30 TAC §330.11(f). Additionally, on-site treatment can be conducted via mobile, on-site services officially registered under §330.9(m) and operating in accordance with the requirements of §330.1221.

A generator intending to treat medical waste on-site must indicate in their TCEQ notification that an approved method will be utilized, as required by 25 TAC §1.136. In addition, the generator should maintain records of the treatment process, as required by 30 TAC §330.1219(a).

Furthermore, on-site treatment should follow the disposal guidelines in accordance with §330.1219(b) through (e).

Off-Site Treatment

Off-site treatment, which again is anything not defined above, must be conducted at a treatment facility authorized to accept “untreated” medical waste.

Owners or operators of medical waste treatment facilities must obtain an MSW Type V registration as specified in 30 TAC §330.9(n).

Owners or operators of Type V processing facilities that accept delivery of untreated medical waste, for which a shipping document is required under §330.1211, must ensure that a shipping document accompanies each shipment and that it is properly completed as required by §330.219(h).

Medical waste that has been treated according to the requirements of 30 TAC 330.1219(a) may be managed and disposed of as routine municipal solid waste, provided labeling and other requirements of §330.1219(b), (c), and (e), §330.171(c)(2), and 25 TAC §1.136 are met.

 

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medical waste onboarding

Medical Waste Onboarding: What to Expect [Infographic]

When it comes to medical waste disposal, you should expect the best. No exceptions.

The medical waste disposal services industry is crowded. It’s the truth. There are big name brands that have let customer service get away from them. And there’s small, mostly local companies that don’t quite have the ability to provide top level service.

Here’s an infographic on what you should expect when going through medical waste onboarding with your next service provider. We believe transparency and putting the customer first is key to providing your the best possible service.

Before Onboarding

Before you onboard with your next medical waste provider, you should watch for how transparent the company is with you. For example, your provider should follow-up immediately with requests or proper estimates, should look and dress professionally, and should be transparent in how their operations work. If a provider isn’t completely honest, why should any client ever trust them.

After Onboarding

After signing the dotted lining, the onboarding process and after should involve complete understand and agreement from both parties, and all expectations should be completely outlined. For example, the client should should allow open conversations between clients and leadership team, should provide a full range of supplies and equipment, should present an organize list of all required documentation, and a bonus is having an interactive portal for clients to stay up-to-date and schedule pick ups.

At RedAway, we offer all of this and more. We love our clients and value transparency and loyalty above all.

medical waste onboarding

disposal quiz

Disposal Quiz: What To Know About Medical Waste Services [Interactive Quiz]

So, you recently took on a new medical waste service provider? Take our disposal quiz to find out how much you know about medical waste services.

Regardless of if you’re a customer of RedAway or not, take our quick medical waste disposal quiz and see if you can go 14 for 14. Your answer options are 1) eliminate, 2) incinerate, 3) dispose and 4) recycle/reuse.

In addition to the disposal quiz, here are some good items to know regarding RedAway medical waste pickup and disposal…

Place all RedAway medical waste in approved containers only, so that:

  • Facility employees will know which waste is marked for disposal and safe treatment
  • Patients will know which waste to avoid
  • RedAway customer service personal can properly handle your waste

Proper Handling/Setup:

  • Use facility Infection control procedure during assembly and follow steps:
    1. Open approved box
    2. Line boxes with red “biohazard” bags
    3. Tie bag when full using “goose neck” tie
    4. Close top of box, folding along perforation
    5. Check the box for:
      • Approved markings (i.e. biohazard logo)
      • No spillage, punctures, or tears
      • All contents securely inside
    6. Move to secured location for storage and removal

Medical Waste Disposal Quiz – Choose the Best Answer!

Answer choices:

  • Destroyed (Regulated Medical Waste) – waste no longer recognized as medical waste because it has been ruined, torn apart, or mutilated.
  • Eliminated (Regulated Medical Waste) – waste that has been completely destroyed via incineration, etc.
  • Dispose (Trash) – waste associated with items normally placed in the trash
  • Recycle/Reuse – items that can used again for the same purpose or repurposed.


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properly dispose of sharps at home

How To Properly Dispose of Sharps at Home

To properly dispose of sharps at home isn’t as simple as one might think. You can’t just toss them into the trash or recycling bin. And no, not even if they’re inside a flimsy plastic bottle.

The danger in disposing of sharps as any other item of trash poses a potential harm to not only your local waste handlers, but also to children, pets, and others that might come in contact. In fact, some states actually ban the disposal of syringes and needles in this way.

If you are an at home patient or use sharps on a regular basis, here are some do’s, don’ts, tips, and tricks to properly dispose of sharps:


DON’T throw away sharps directly in the trash

Never dispose of needles, syringes, or other sharps straight into the household trash. This can cause a world of harmful possibilities.

Instead, dispose of sharps in an FDA approved sharps container. For information on what passes FDA guidelines, visit this article on FDA-Cleared Sharps Containers.

DON’T dispose of sharps containers in the recycling bin

Similarly to the point made above, don’t throw away sharps containers in the recycling bin. This cause several issues, as your recyclables must be sorted through and any sharps containers could potentially put waste handlers at risk, as well as making the entire collection of recycled materials unusable.

DO follow the guidelines of your state or local government

As mentioned before, some states (and local governments) make it illegal to dispose of sharps in the common household trash, even if in proper FDA-cleared sharps containers.

Instead, consult your local guidelines or follow some of these tips to get rid of sharps containers:

  • Drop boxes or supervised collection sites. Drop off your sharps disposal containers at collections sites, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, health departments, medical waste facilities, and police or fire stations.
  • Mail-back programs. You may be able to mail a FDA-cleared disposal container to a collection site. Consult the manufacture’s instructions included with the sharps containers, as they might offer the mail-back option or have specific requirements.

DON’T dispose of sharps in a water bottle if a FDA container is not readily available

Sometimes you run out of containers. It’s understandable. But under no circumstances should you dispose of needles in weak packaging, such as water bottles or empty cereal boxes.

Follow these guidelines for DIY sharps containers:

  • choose a sturdy, non-see-through container, such as an empty bleach or laundry detergent bottle, or empty coffee can
  • CLEARLY label the container “DO NOT RECYCLE:” with “syringes,” “needles,” or “sharps” added
  • make sure the lid is able to be completely tightened
  • store in an upright position at all times
  • when container is full and ready to be disposed of, seal and reinforce the lid with Duct tape or other heavy-duty tapes

DO make sure your sharps container meets FDA standards

All sharps containers should be:

  • made of a heavy-duty plastic
  • able to close with a tight-fitting, puncture-proof lid, without sharps being able to come out
  • upright and stable during use
  • leak-resistant
  • properly labeled

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zika virus

Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

By now, everyone has heard of the Zika virus rapidly taking over the Americas. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern” in the face of a rapid spread across Central and South America and the Caribbean. Though it’s been around for over six decades, the virus has spread like wild fired across the globe in the last several weeks.

To keep you up to date, here are some common questions you might have about Zika:

What is the Zika virus?

The Zika virus, originally discovered in 1947 in a monkey from the Zika forest of Uganda, is in the same disease family as Yellow fever, Dengue, and West Nile. The virus is spread through mosquito bites, blood transfusions, and sexual transmission.

zika_virus_cycleWhat are the symptoms?

Zika virus brings upon symptoms of severe fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, spotted rash, joint pain, muscle pain and even pain in the back of the eyes. However, roughly 80% people infected are asymptomatic and are unaware they even carry the virus.

So, how serious is it for women?

While Zika is not as serious an issue for most of the non-pregnant population, it is very serious for pregnant women living in or visiting affected countries. Zika has become increasingly frightening for pregnant women, with links to microcephaly and numerous brain defects for unborn babies.

Currently, Brazil has recorded over 4,700 suspected cases of microcephaly.  Additionally, Zika is now circulating in at least 28 countries, including many island nations in the tropical Atlantic (update: now Australia and a few countries in Europe). Researchers suspect Zika could infect 3-4 million people by the end of 2016 and spread to all but two countries across the Americas.

WHO and the CDC have warned that whether you’re living in an affected area or traveling abroad, you should be aware of the symptoms and transmission cycle of the virus, though they have yet to warn against traveling altogether.

What exactly is microcephaly?

Microcephaly, which literally means “small head,” is a condition where the head size of newborns in abnormally small, usually as low as the bottom one percent. According to Dr. Ganeshwaran Mochida, a pediatric neurologist and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, “Microcephaly is almost always due to insufficient growth of the brain.”  The condition currently affects roughly 25,000 children in the U.S., making it fairly uncommon.

Mochida believes we have yet to understand the full spectrum of congenital Zika virus infection and “there could be subtle developmental issues or other organs that are affected.”

What about Zika spreading in the U.S.?

In short, there’s not a huge threat here. Thankfully, the U.S. is equipped to prevent an outbreak simply because of our modern amenities, including air conditioning and insulated homes. However, in the last several months, there have been over 48 patients in at least 12 states and Washington, D.C., all of which come from people traveling abroad recently (except for two in Dallas).

This week, here in Dallas, two cases were reported and appeared to have been sexually transmitted from one person to the other. This is the only known instance of the virus being transmitted this way in the States, but officials believe it could become a more serious concern moving forward.

Additionally, Florida Governor Rick Scott recently declared a health emergency in four counties throughout the state in an attempt to stop the virus in it’s tracks. There’s no record yet that the virus has entered the mosquito population in Florida, but it could move through someone coming into Florida from Brazil or another affected country.

Finally, the biggest concern for officials though are our territories, namely Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Both of these territories are right in the heart of the affected areas and have already seen a number of cases.

invoice

8 Common Medical Billing Errors

Billing is never an enjoyable process. For anyone. On average, 40 percent of small businesses are 60-plus days delinquent on at least a third of their receivables – and unclear or incorrect invoices can certainly be at fault.

In the medical field, reports say that upward of 80% of invoices are overcharging patients. To ensure you’re not making errors and overcharging your patients, keep in mind the following tips (or share these tips with them and build further trust):

1. Double charging:

Whether you refer to it has double charging or duplicate billing, this error occurs when patients are billed more than once. Human error is the most common example, say, through a doctor and nurse not fully communicating to each other that a particular medication was given – thus a bill could be incurred when the medication was prescribed and administered.

Another common example is billing multiple “first days” in a hospital, which often cost more than subsequent days during a hospital stay. Patients should always carefully read through invoices,  as double charging is the most common reason for unexpectedly higher medical bills. To combat this issue, insure your patients receive an itemized bill, making it easier to spot duplicate charges.

2. Upcoding or mismatched codes:

Upcoding occurs when a medical billing code is improperly changed to one which represents a more severe diagnosis or treatment. While the most common occurrences include things like coding a regular checkup as inpatient care or coding for name-brand versus generic medication, the error of upcoding is still a serious offense. To your patients, it’s basically like getting billed for an expensive bottle of Advil instead generic Acetemenophin….but much worse. And highly illegal. Patients should ask their healthcare providers to correct the charge immediately.

Mismatched codes are another similar error. When a medical bill upcodes your diagnosis, but a patient’s treatment code is left alone, the insurance company will typically reject the patient’s claim due to the mismatch between the treatment and diagnosis codes. This is a double whammy; not only will a patient’s bill be more expensive, but the claim will also get rejected.

3. Unbundling:

Unbundling is the separation of charges that are normally charged under the same billing code. Instead of receiving a package rate for, say, multiple tests of the same code, patients who experience unbundling on their medical bill can often pay multiples of their original bill.  This type of mistake can be tricky to identify, and patients who experience unbundling should reach out to the National Correct Coding Initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for further advice on arguing the charges.

4. Incorrect quantity:

This mistake could be as simple as an extra “0” placed at the end of a number. Patients should carefully check quantity to make sure they weren’t charged extra for an incorrect amount of items or medications. Talk about a headache for the patient.

5. Incorrect info:

Another of the most common billing errors are simple misspellings and misprints, including incorrect names or policy numbers. Claim denials or being bill for a full amount can occur because of a simple incorrect insurance ID number. Talk about a headache.

The main reason these errors occur are because of how many hands influence a medical bill – sometimes up to a dozen people have something to do with it. One mistake entering incorrect information can be passed down the line just like the childhood “telephone” game, causing severe problems when a patient’s claim is submitted to their insurance company.

6. Balance billing:

Balance billing occurs when a health care provider bills the patient for charges other than co-pays or any other amount than what was negotiated with the insurance company. Balance billing is most common when a patient is treated “out-of-network” for non-emergency care, as doctors can set the rate to charge the patient and bill them for anything over the agreed amount. 

Patients should check with their insurance company about whether or not all of the hospital’s charges are covered under their policy. If they are, then this balance bill is illegal, and patients should not have to pay for it.

7. Overcharge time:

After undergoing a procedure, patients should check medical records to confirm how long they were in the operating room or under anesthesia. Patients are usually billed in 15-minute increments, therefore, mistakes can add up quickly.

8. Canceled procedures:

Patients can sometimes accidentally be charged for a test or procedure that ended up being canceled. They should make sure this doesn’t happen by carefully reviewing their itemized medical bill. If a patient thinks they were wrongfully over-billed, they should collect all the necessary documents to prove they did not receive the service, thus disputing the charge.

Related: How Do I Fix Medical Bill Errors?
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