“We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation.” This quote comes from the recent interim report by the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Since 1999, the number of opioid overdoses in the U.S. has quadrupled. Over that same period, the amount of prescription opioids sold has quadrupled as well. With a substantial portion of the population experiencing chronic pain and more than 650,000 prescriptions dispensed every day, the medical profession must employ every available strategy to address the tragic human and economic costs of opioid misuse, abuse, and dependence. One such tactic is to avoid the need for prescription opioids in the first place, or to limit a patient’s pain management need to a very short duration.
The evolution from a wide-eyed trainee to a professional surgical neurophysiologist capable of supporting surgeons in the most complex procedures is a metamorphosis that is truly awesome and, with every graduating class, I’m reminded of the tremendous group effort behind the scenes. Our clinical instructors, medical office staff, senior surgical neurophysiologists, remote monitoring professionals, and operations leaders provide support and guidance every step of the way. This spirit of teamwork not only makes the training program successful, it also makes the goals of clinical excellence, continuous improvement, and patient-centered care achievable. I am thrilled to be part of such a group and I cannot wait to see our newest team members grow into the next SpecialtyCare IONM mentors and leaders.
Illegal referrals and inaccurate billing are often inadvertent, but can be part of deliberate and deceptive moneymaking schemes when physicians and other clinicians have ownership in outsourced providers for hospitals. Whether intentional or not, there is an ongoing pattern of regulatory compliance violations relating to the False Claims Act, the Stark Law, and the Anti-Kickback Statute. Headlines continue to regularly highlight fraudulent billing and illegal referrals that pose tremendous risk to hospitals, providers, and patients. Even alleged violations and pre-trial indictments can be costly given that regulatory agencies are authorized to suspend federal payments to providers under investigation.
In the fall of 2016, David Citarrella, SpecialtyCare’s Director of Operations for Intraoperative Neuromonitoring (IONM) in California and Nevada, let me know that an orthopedic surgeon in San Francisco planned to travel to the Republic of Moldova in Eastern Europe on a humanitarian mission. The surgeon, Dr. Dimitriy Kondrashov, had inquired about the use of IONM equipment to monitor spinal procedures during his trip. My first thought was, “What is he going to do with this equipment? It’s not like you just press one button to turn it on, then get a green light if all is good, or a red light if there is a problem.” I reached out directly to Dr. Kondrashov to see if I could help.
Scientists have been fascinated with the workings of the human nervous system dating back to the time of Hippocrates and well before. Today, as members of the healthcare community gain a greater understanding of the system—how to treat its disorders and protect its integrity—interest in the topic continues to grow. The American Clinical Neurophysiology Society (ACNS) has been a leader in education and training for the past 70 years, and its recent annual meeting continued this tradition. SpecialtyCare was pleased to present two new research studies at the event to advance the community’s understanding of intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) and its impact on patient health and safety.
The American Society of Neurophysiological Monitoring (ASNM) is “dedicated to the advancement of quality neurophysiologic monitoring services for neuroprotection.” Stated more simply, it’s all about patient safety. SpecialtyCare is deeply committed to supporting the Society and its mission to grow the profession, provide educational forums, develop quality standards, and build partnerships with allied healthcare professionals. As part of this commitment, members of our team serve in leadership roles with the ASNM and recently contributed several presentations at the organization’s Annual Meeting in May, an event celebrating 40 years of neuromonitoring.
We all want the best quality for the best value, but it’s often difficult to evaluate our options accordingly. Hospitals that are exploring outsourced intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) options obviously want to know what they’re paying, which can be difficult when different vendors present different pricing models and different services. It can be like comparing apples to oranges to strawberries. They’re all fruit, but clearly not the same. Here are some quick tips for evaluating outsourced IONM services, taken from our new guide, The Real Spend of Your IONM Program: Eight Tips to Discover the True Value.
We hear a lot these days about STEM education—an interdisciplinary, applied approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The rise of women in STEM careers is notable, too. So, as Women’s History Month draws to a close, we decided to look to the future being built right now by some of the women at SpecialtyCare who pursued careers in science and are responsible for our clinical education and training programs today. Each has had a unique journey that includes education, choices, gumption, and surprises. They actively honed their interests and cultivated their talents to reach their current roles, and they continue to apply their strengths toward additional growth for themselves and others—men and women alike.
Consolidation in healthcare is nothing new, in fact it’s hotter than ever. Most analysts, and others who know the industry well, will tell you this trend is positive as we seek better patient outcomes, operational efficiencies, and cost containment to deliver higher value care. In the outsourced medical service provider sector of healthcare, we also can increase value with mergers and acquisitions. As the sector matures, consolidation offers new opportunities to provide customers with high quality, specialized, and reliable services that support hospitals’ goals within today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment.
From a healthcare perspective, the only thing we can be certain of in 2017 is that there will be uncertainty. For healthcare administrators, there is uncertainty around how to manage changes in provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI), and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). Restructuring Medicare and Medicaid could have a significant impact on planning, implementation, and payments for providers. But, regardless of the new format, healthcare providers like SpecialtyCare will always have an obligation—both to their patients and their customers—to improve value by providing high-quality care while containing costs.