Happy New Year! (In Spite of PQRS)

Happy New Year to all of our social media friends!  I took the holiday time to clean and organize the clinic.  It always feels good to go into the new year feeling prepared.  I wish all of our Facebook and Twitter followers a year of health, adventure, learning, and good memories.

One issue I dealt with over the weekend was the pending PQRS (Physican Quality Reporting System) changes required by Medicare as of January 1, 2015.  In March, we switched from paper charts to an electronic medical record system.  I am so glad that we did.  I can not imagine how a paper chart could ever fulfill Medicare’s document requirements at this time.   (Thank you, WebPT, for guiding us through this and making the charting manageable!)

In an attempt to improve quality of care, Medicare is now requiring that all of our patient encounters address nine aspects of care (the PQRS measures that pertain to occupational therapy).  This is a huge change from the three that were required last year.  While I certainly agree that quality of care can be enhanced by addressing such medical issues as obesity, alcohol abuse, nicotine use, depression, risk of falls and elder abuse, I do question whether an outpatient occupational therapy clinic focused on upper extremity rehabilitation is the correct place to bring up some of these issues.

Our hand therapy clinic is not the first line of defense in medical care.  By the time our patients reach us, they have had possible encounters with ER or urgent care personnel, their primary care physicians, rheumatologists, upper extremity or orthopedic specialists, imaging and radiology personnel.  Our patients are already overwhelmed with all of the paperwork that is required at each of these facilities (intake forms, health history, notice of privacy practices, notices of patient’s right and responsibilities, functional assessment forms).  And now we are being told that we, as occupational therapists, need to take height and weight for a Body Mass Index, ask about alcohol and tobacco use, ask about history of falls, and administer a depression screen and an elder abuse screen before we can even begin to address the reason that our patient was originally referred to our hand therapy clinic.  I anticipate that these screenings will be a time-consuming and frustrating process for the therapist as well as for the patient who just wants to focus on what they can do to make their upper extremity injury better.

I spent many hours over the weekend reviewing the PQRS measures and developing a checklist that will hopefully meet Medicare requirements while not being overwhelming for either the therapists or the patient.  However, I would love to hear how other clinics are addressing the issues.  Or how clients feel about these changes.  Any tips?  Advice?  Stories of how addressing these issues made a positive change (as I’m trying to keep an open mind)?  Any thoughts on how to best handle the counseling or referral process if any of the measures requires intervention?

It will be interesting to check back in a year, to see the impact of PQRS on our small clinic.  At best, I’m hoping to discover opportunities for growth and expansion.  At worst, we will just survive the additional paperwork.    In the meantime, I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy year!