Traditional remedies physicians relied upon during previous hard times—working longer hours to increase volume, hiring more staff, and investing in technology to improve productivity—may not be enough to keep practices growing. In response, otolaryngologists are devising creative strategies to address decreases in patient volume and reimbursement.
Impact on Patients
In Chicago, Michael Friedman, MD, an otolaryngologist and chairman of sleep surgery at Rush University Medical Center, heads a four-physician practice attached to the hospital. The group provides comprehensive ENT and audiological services. “We’ve been particularly hard hit because reimbursements for audiological services have been cut by as much as 50 percent because the law changed so that audiologists can bill independently of us,” Dr. Friedman, said. He was referring to the change in Medicare regulations in 2008 that directed audiologists to bill for Medicare patients using their own National Provider Identification (NPI) number rather than the NPI of a supervising otolaryngologist. Dr. Friedman also faces previously employed patients who lost their insurance, those deferring elective procedures and high deductible insurance plans that leave cash-strapped consumers vulnerable, particularly early in the year, as they spend until they reach the deductible’s limit.