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Tip of the week: Try these 10 steps to safeguard your data

Managed Care Weekly Advisor, May 2, 2007

Robin J. Fisk, Esq., principal of the Fisk Law Office in Ashland, NH, suggests an approach to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of information from a physician practice by a health plan or other source. In an age of data transparency, however, no strategy is bulletproof. Moreover, "if it is found that disclosure is in the public interest, it may not be possible to block it completely," Fisk says. Consider the following 10 steps:

  1. Identify the source that is disclosing information about your practice and verify that the information was intended to be kept confidential.

  2. If a payer is making the disclosure, consider whether circumstances might now warrant the disclosure.

  3. If the disclosure is coming from a payer, and you decide to protest, look in your contract for exactly what is specified about the type of disclosure.

  4. If the contract is silent and you decide to object, consider sending a letter that places the payer on notice that you consider the information confidential and not subject to disclosure. Cite your reasons and note that the agreement does not expressly authorize the disclosure.

  5. Ask for advance notice of the publication of any information about your practice and the opportunity to review the information for accuracy.

  6. Contractually agree to the publication of data that are compiled only by trusted sources, and require review and approval of any homegrown content.

  7. Ask for the ability to review and comment on the explanation accompanying the information.

  8. Offer objective information about your practice that provides value to patients, including estimates of the cost of services for a particular service or procedure. Make note of any individualized financial counseling that you offer to patients.

  9. Consider developing your own Web page to provide specific information about the cost and quality of your services.

  10. Ask the payer to link your explanation about cost and quality information to its comparative data.