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Physicians

27% of state’s hospitals earn top safety rating

One in four Georgia hospitals earned an “A’’ grade in recently released ratings on patient safety.

clipboardThe 27 percent figure put Georgia hospitals roughly in the middle of the pack among states, according to the Leapfrog Group’s safety scores report.

The ratings measure the ability of hospitals to prevent errors, injuries and infections. The report on the ratings is intended to help consumers as they choose a facility for health services.

More than 1,000 people die each day in the United States because of preventable hospital errors, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit, Washington-based organization that focuses on patient safety.

Nationwide, one in 25 patients actually picks up an infection in the hospital.

full story

State takes action on Blue Cross contracts

Georgia’s insurance commissioner, in a rare regulatory action, has told the state’s largest health insurer to rescind newly added amendments to contracts with thousands of physicians.

clipboardPhysicians had complained that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia contract revisions lacked clarity on the insurer’s payment rates for medical services.

“I heard from doctors all over the state about the heavy-handed approach taken by Blue Cross regarding their contract changes,” said Commissioner Ralph Hudgens in a statement.  “I want doctors spending time caring for their patients, not being stonewalled by an insurance company.”

Consumers should not be affected by the move, insurance department officials say, as the existing physician contracts remain intact.

Blue Cross said in a statement Thursday that it had been working with Hudgens and the insurance department for several weeks to resolve the issue. full story

Is Georgia’s medical access law too weak?

The state insurance department is looking at possible ways to strengthen a Georgia law that requires health insurers’ networks to give consumers adequate access to doctors and hospitals.

“Georgia is not alone: The feds and all the states are looking at the issue,’’ Trey Sivley, director of the Division of Insurance and Financial Oversight for the Georgia agency, told GHN recently.

Healthcare CostThe National Association of Insurance Commissioners is working on a redraft of its model for a network adequacy law. Georgia is studying the NAIC proposals, Sivley said. But he added that the state’s interest in the details “doesn’t mean that we’re going to adopt” the national group’s plan.

Such regulatory changes, if enacted, would coincide with an accelerating trend of health insurers offering consumers more limited choices of medical providers. The resulting health plans have become known generally as “narrow networks.” full story

Doctors: EHRs a good idea that needs improvement

Dr. Danny Newman, like other physicians, recognizes that electronic health records are here to stay.

Newman, an Augusta internist, has seen some of the benefits of replacing paper medical records with computerized data. One advantage, he said, is electronic prescribing of medications, which reduces mix-ups caused by unclear handwriting.

Dr. Danny Newman

Dr. Danny Newman

But Newman isn’t thrilled with electronic health records (EHRs) as they now exist. He said the current versions are primarily geared to billing and reimbursement, rather than focused on care for the patient.

“They’re supposed to be more efficient,’’ Newman told GHN on Thursday, “but I think they’re less efficient.”

A patient visit now produces five pages of notes, instead of a single page in the pre-EHR days, he said. And it takes about five minutes to fill in the EHR for one visit. “It’s taking away time from my patients,” Newman said.

Nowadays, he added, many doctors “feel like they’re data entry clerks.”

Earlier this month, the American Medical Association gave official voice to physician frustration with computerized records. It called for improvements to EHR systems to benefit caregivers and patients. full story

Merger shows health IT still blooming in Georgia

Seven years ago, Baha Zeidan and two of his Valdosta colleagues entered a local competition for business plans, looking to build on their idea for a health care software startup.

At the time, the three young men, all graduates of Valdosta State University, were working at a medical lab company in the South Georgia city.

The group saw a need for better software for the health care industry, which still was bogged down with paper medical records.

Baha Zeidan

Baha Zeidan

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce awarded Zeidan, Douglas Swords and Daniel Henry the first prize of $15,000 for their business plan. The contest award also came with legal and other services.

“That was the start of the company,’’ Zeidan said Wednesday.

Azalea Health, launched in 2008 in Valdosta, “the Azalea City,” focused on providing electronic health records and billing software for physicians, along with software for laboratories.

On Tuesday, seven years after the contest award, the company announced a merger with Alpharetta-based simplifyMD, another private health IT firm. The merged company will have 70 employees and will have offices in Valdosta, Alpharetta and Macon as well as in Gainesville, Fla. full story

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