Starting today, specialist physicians in B.C. are eligible for new fees and support that will improve access and service for patients while increasing efficiency and capacity for physicians.
The new supports are initiatives of the Specialist Services Committee (SSC), a joint committee of the Province and the BC Medical Association (BCMA) that works closely with health authorities on the delivery of specialist physician services to British Columbians. With the mandate of supporting and improving the specialist care system, the committee will receive a total of $45 million in funding by 2011-12 to support its policies and programs.
"The SSC initiatives are one more example of the work we are doing in partnership with the BCMA to improve patient care across the province," said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon. "Since 2004, we have invested around $100 million annually through the General Practice Services Committee to support health services provided by family physicians, and evaluations have shown that our investment has paid off with increased satisfaction for patients and doctors. We look forward to similar positive results for B.C.'s specialist care system, including more collaboration between specialist physicians and general practitioners."
Created to increase specialist capacity and improve patient access to specialist physicians, the Specialist Services Committee introduces a number of new billing options that were not available under the previous billing system. It is anticipated that the changes will result in overall cost avoidance for the health system and provide benefits for both patients and physicians through a reduction in ER visits, and unnecessary or inappropriate referrals. Other expected benefits are increased job satisfaction for specialists and reduced stress for their medical office assistants (MOAs).
"The doctors of B.C. look forward to the long term success of the SSC initiatives," said Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association. "These new initiatives will help support the much-needed communication between specialists and GPs as they co-ordinate the care of their patients. This is about finding ways to improve access to specialty care, as well as improving the overall quality of the services being delivered."
As part of the new incentives, specialist physicians will receive $60 for providing immediate advice to another specialist or general practitioner. Specialists can bill this 'Physician to Physician Urgent Advice' fee when they provide telephone advice to the initiating physician within two hours.
The 'Physician to Physician Patient Management Advice' fee of $40 is to be used when a referring physician needs advice on the care of a patient. Specialists can bill this fee when they provide telephone advice to the initiating physician within seven days. The $20 'Scheduled Telephone Patient Follow-Up' fee is for specialists who have scheduled follow-up telephone visits with their own patients in situations that do not require a face-to-face visit. Doctors must pre-schedule the follow- up with the patient in order to bill this fee.
Specialist physicians are also now able to bill for pre- and post- operative visits, which were previously included in surgical fees.
Eligible visits include: pre-operative visits in the office or in the hospital, post-operative visits in the office and post-operative visits in the hospital after 14 days. These new fees will allow for more interaction between patients and specialists both pre- and post-surgery, potentially reducing the chances of complications.
The SSC initiatives allow for specialists and their MOAs to participate in training programs that were previously available only to general practitioners and their MOAs. The initial specialist training program will cover office efficiency, group visits and advanced access, which focuses on patient scheduling. This program is part of General Practice Service Committee's Practice Support Program, which has the overarching goal of improving physician professional satisfaction and patient access to quality care.
Like the General Practice Services Committee, the SSC will use the guidelines of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, an independent not-for-profit organization helping to lead the improvement of health care throughout the world, to guide existing and future policies, processes and programs. The three guiding principles of both committees are to: improve the health of the population, enhance patient and doctor experience of care and reduce or control the per capita cost of care.
The SSC will also explore options for the recruitment and retention of specialist physicians and ways to support the care of patients with complex or chronic conditions. Additionally, physicians will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of health authority- led proposals aimed at health-system redesign.
For more information on the Specialist Services Committee, please visit www.bcma.org