Tax Crime, Scribes: Atypical Hot Health Story Tips

Aug. 7, 2014 

Tax-Fraud Crooks Targeting Doctors; Scribes in the Exam Room; and Protecting Families Against Pertussis Highlight August Texas Medicine

Physicians targeted by tax scams, new moves to cut Medicaid red tape, and who is the new person in the exam room are just a few of this month’s Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Texas Medicine magazine feature articles. Texas Medicine is the association’s official publication.

Tax Fraud — Doctors Targeted in Identity Theft Scheme
Imagine filing your tax return and having the Internal Revenue Service reject it because it’s already been filed — using your Social Security number. That’s happened to at least 100 TMA member physicians and likely many others, as part of a nationwide tax refund scam. Crooks file fake returns as someone else in hopes of collecting their refund. The crime victims also include physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, dentists, podiatrists, and pharmacists. Victims in 49 states and the District of Columbia have been hit by this con, to the tune of $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds each of the past two years.

Hiring Scribes: See More Patients; Spend Less Time on Paperwork
Patients might notice someone new in the exam room the next time they visit their doctor. Physicians are hiring medical scribes, electronic note-takers who sit in the room with the doctor and the patient, documenting the encounter in the electronic health record (EHR). While the scribe takes notes, the doctor is free to look the patient in the eye and provide hands-on treatment. This addresses many physicians’ complaints about using an EHR — that though the systems have the potential to improve accuracy and efficiency in a medical practice, EHRs often mean doctors have to spend more time staring at the computer screen than looking at their patients. One TMA physician leader who uses scribes says now patients have his undivided attention.

Protecting the Family: TMA Looks to Broaden Rules to Allow Doctors to Treat Family Members at Risk of Acquiring Illnesses Like Pertussis  
It’s a common occurrence: A physician cares for an infant sick with pertussis (whooping cough) and wants to prevent the family from getting sick, too. Because pertussis spreads easily through coughing, some doctors want to prescribe “postexposure prophylaxis,” or treatment administered immediately after exposure to an illness (an antibiotic prescription), to the child’s immediate family. Otherwise they might contract pertussis. However, the Texas Medical Board prevents physicians in this situation from treating an infant’s family members if the physician has not established a “proper professional relationship” with them — in addition to the infant. In May, TMA’s House of Delegates governing body voted to seek changes in the rules so doctors can prescribe in this situation and better stop the spread of disease.

Seeking Simplicity: TMA-Backed Law Prompts Medicaid Red-Tape Relief
A workgroup backed by new state law is taking aim at Medicaid managed care red tape and bureaucracy that interfere with good, efficient patient care. Among their recommendations: Streamline claims and credentialing processes, improve the plans’ prescription drug formulary, and update network adequacy standards. Currently, doctors and their staffs have to spend extra time on the phone to get preauthorization for patients’ care or verify patients’ enrollment in a plan. And all of the plans have their own rules, forms, and referral requirements, all of which sometimes delay patients’ care.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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Contact: Pam Udall
phone: (512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807
Pam Udall

Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320
Brent Annear


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