Yesterday I worked at my dad’s office again, but our “patient accounts manager” (translation: office bill collector) Betsy, was back. She showed me some more of the ropes–new patient forms, drug refill requests, the whole shabang. A few comments:
* I’m curious if other private practices–or even other private psychiatric practices–are as understanding about late bills. Because patients have conditions that may keep them from remembering to pay–or not having the money to pay (mental illness can cause people to lose their jobs and insurance)–it doesn’t seem like a very strict policy at my dad’s office. I know there _are_ discussions when patients are way overdue, but in every doctor’s office I’ve ever visited, the co-pay is the ticket to see the doctor.
* It’s a sad state of mental health stigma and/or insurance companies’ “pre-existing condition” crap when a fellow health care professional that’s seeing a psychiatrist prefers to pay out of pocket instead of having his insurance billed. Then again, if at *any* time you were prescribed a drug to treat depression or anxiety, insurers may deny you individual coverage, according to the Georgetown Health Privacy Project.
* I think it’s great if patients can get all the drugs they need from free samples, but the drug companies are clearing doing it to make a profit; some of the patient-assistance programs are easy to navigate, while others, like GSK’s Bridges to Access require proof of income statements and all these means testing hoops.
* If the technology revolution is already here, it missed the medical community. My dad’s as much of a techno-geek as anyone, and even though he still manages his patients through a secure online database, he still has to print out the webpages for drug refill approvals instead of just clicking a button. Maybe e-ink is just around the corner, and it it’ll be easier to patients to provide their information digitally, but we still have to take address, phone, and social security number data over the phone, write it down, and then later enter it _manually_ into a computer billing database. Technology’s supposed to make our lives easier, not add another step of work (or just a different one) into the day. I know there’s security and privacy issues, especially now with HIPAA in place, but you’ve gotta be kidding me that there’s nothing cheap enough for small private practices that could link up securely with other practices’ databases and the hospital. Jason made a small CMS for his hospital–maybe I could do something similar for the Arbor Free Clinic.