Beyond the annual physical

It's a new year, and promises to be an exciting one in health care. But concepts such as bundled payments, comparative effectiveness and the patient-centered medical home seem certain to remain center stage.


In an era when primary care physicians have less and less time to spend with their patients, the annual physical begins to seem like a luxury. And some feel the evidence indicates that it should be: The value of the periodic health examination in and of itself has not been definitively proven. Many experts, though, point to an annual encounter between doctor and patient as an ideal chance to address risky behaviors, discuss lifestyle changes, and stay current on screening, as well as strengthen the doctor-patient relationship. In our cover story annual.htm, Bonnie Darves looks at the evidence for and against the periodic health examination and how some physicians feel it should be adapted to fit a changing health care environment.

Stacey Butterfield reports from the Medical Group Management Association's recent annual meeting about how physicians can code more accurately and avoid common and often costly pitfalls MGMA-coding.htm. Higher-level procedures are often underdocumented, for example, and many charts don't note the time physicians spend with patients. With the recent expansion of the Medicare Recovery Audit Contractor program from its pilot phase, now is an ideal time to take stock of your practice's coding procedures and identify areas for improvement.

It's a new year, and it promises to be an exciting one in health care. At press time, the Senate was debating the proposed health care reform legislation, with plans to try to finalize a bill by the end of 2009. Regardless of the outcome, concepts such as bundled payments, comparative effectiveness research and the patient-centered medical home seem certain to remain center stage in 2010. ACP Internist looks forward to covering these issues and keeping you up-to-date. Follow our coverage online , on our blog , and on Twitter . Let us know what you'd like to read about.