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Electronic banking could save health system $4.5 billion

A new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regulation sets a framework for electronic fund transfers that should cut down on administrative time and money spent on processing paper checks, officials said. The Jan. 5 CMS interim final rule would create a new standard for electronic fund transfers between health plans and financial institutions, and specify the data content for sending payments to physicians and hospitals. Using a standardized format would allow billing and accounting systems to track payments for services electronically. Creating an environment that encourages electronic transfers of payments instead of paper checks could save doctors and hospitals between $3 billion and $4.5 billion over 10 years in reduced administrative costs, the rule projects. The agency also noted the potential environmental benefits from saving an estimated 400 tons of paper by sending checks electronically. "The less time a physician has to spend on paperwork is that much more time ...

Ohio high court: Expert witnesses required in cases alleging lack of informed consent

Patients who sue doctors over lack of informed consent must obtain expert medical testimony before pursuing their claim, the Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled. The decision, which overturns an appeals court ruling, prevents more lawsuits against physicians and strengthens tort reform protections in place in Ohio, said Bret C. Perry, an attorney for the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland & Northern Ohio. The academy submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. The high court's decision "reaffirmed the longstanding precedent that a claim for lack of informed consent constitutes a 'medical claim' requiring plaintiffs to produce competent expert medical testimony establishing what a reasonable medical practitioner would have disclosed to his patient about the risks" of a proposed treatment, Perry said in an email. In the case, Robert White was treated by Hilliard, Ohio-based neurological surgeon Warren Leimbach II, MD, in 1998 for back pain. The doctor diagnosed White with a her ...

Disparities in reproductive health care linger

Women who are younger, economically disadvantaged or undereducated used fewer reproductive health services in recent years, highlighting disparities that persist despite decades of progress expanding access to such care. The gaps in utilization can contribute to teenage pregnancies and more sexually transmitted diseases, says a study published online Dec. 15, 2011, in the American Journal of Public Health. They are consequences nurse practitioner and lead study author Kelli Stidham Hall sees in the community adolescent health clinic where she practices in Princeton, N.J. "I am seeing these trends play out in my clinical practice," said Hall, a postdoctoral research associate with the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. "It is devastating to see the drop in service use and see the women come in with an unintended pregnancy. You can really see the need." Researchers examined 2002-08 data on 4,421 women 15 to 24 years old, with an average age of 19. More than h ...