The News – 11 July 2014

Overview

  • Medical imaging companies have been accused of exploiting a Medicare loophole to charge patients and the government more for services.
  • Voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke is being investigated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which supervises the registration of doctors qualified to practice.
  • Imagine having an ultra high-resolution display built directly into a pair of contact lenses. This could be the future of digital displays thanks to scientists at Oxford University.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 11th July 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-10/medical-imaging-companies-accused-of-exploiting-loophole/5588212

Medical imaging companies have been accused of exploiting a Medicare loophole to charge patients and the government more for services.

… some companies are making vulnerable patients who need multiple scans return over a number of days.

The practice helps them avoid a Medicare billing regime where set fees are reduced for second and subsequent scans conducted on the same day.

Making patients return can save imaging practices as little as $5 or as much as half the standard cost of a scan.

… specialist doctors could be raking in millions of dollars by forcing patients back to their GP for a fresh referral each year.

But the imaging industry said sometimes there were legitimate medical or logistical reasons to ask patients to return on different days.

Charging at the higher rate also gave them more capacity to bulk-bill patients.

However, in cases where practices do not bulk-bill, it results in the maximum gap payment for patients.

Consumer advocates said asking patients to make unnecessary repeated visits was a waste of time and money.

“If it’s not medically relevant … then this could be a significant cost burden on the Australian health system and one that requires review,” Consumer Health Forum chief executive Adam Stankevicius said.

Government spending on imaging has risen more than 40 per cent in the past five years and makes up about 10 per cent of the Medicare budget.

The patient gap charges, the difference between the cost and the Medicare rebate, are also up with the average imaging gap now $88.

The imaging industry said it is common for patients to have to return for multiple scans.

Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association chief executive Pattie Beerens said sometimes there were medical reasons for needing to return.

This included patients who had contrasts or isotopes in nuclear medicine, which could interfere with CT scans.

Various injections could not be done at the same time because they were painful or could interfere between medications.

Ms Beerens said the industry had long been under pressure since rebates were frozen without indexation in 1998.

Medical advocate Lorraine Long says the imaging industry has many poor practices.

The Medical Error Action Group founder has personally been bulk-billed twice for appointments she made but later cancelled.

She said she frequently saw evidence of “double-dipping” by medical practices.

In some cases, patients were bulk-billed for clinicians they never saw or billed for visits they never attended.

Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association chief executive Pattie Beerens said they had not heard of cases of billing for cancelled appointments.

“We would encourage anyone who thinks the system is being rorted to talk to Medicare,” she said.

A Department of Human Services spokeswoman said the department had compliance activities to address inappropriate practice and fraudulent activity.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-10/voluntary-euthanasia-advocate-dr-philip-nitschke-investigated/5588062

Voluntary euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke is being investigated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which supervises the registration of doctors qualified to practice.

Dr Nitschke admits he supported Perth man Nigel Brayley in his decision to commit suicide, despite knowing he was not terminally ill and was only 45 years old.

Mental health groups Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute believe Dr Nitschke had an obligation to recommended psychiatric help to Mr Brayley, but Dr Nitschke said it was not his role to intervene.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency AHPRA, which will conduct the investigation, provides support to the Medical Board of Australia in regulating the medical profession.

The board’s primary role is to protect the public by ensuring only medical practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified to practise in a competent and ethical manner are registered.

The AHPRA says it does not make public comments about ongoing investigations and does not comment on individual matters.

Dr Nistchke has been contacted for comment, but told the weekly medical industry magazine Australian Doctor he was informed by AHPRA on Tuesday that he would be investigated.

Dr Nitschke’s medical registration is up for renewal in September.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/07/10/4042533.htm

Imagine having an ultra high-resolution display built directly into a pair of contact lenses.

This could be the future of digital displays thanks to scientists at Oxford University, who have adapted a material currently used to store data on DVDs and transformed it into a radical new display technology.

Writing in Nature YESTERDAY , they say the material could usher in a new generation of displays that are thinner, lighter, with higher resolution and lower power consumption than any existing technology.

They could even be mounted on flexible or transparent surfaces, raising the possibility of applications beyond just e-readers and smartphones to things such as car windshields and contact lenses.

The development relies on the same process that turns water into ice cubes in your freezer. Many substances undergo changes in structure when they change temperature, such as going from solid to liquid, or crystalline to non-crystalline.

These phase-change materials are currently used for a wide range of applications, from computer memory and rewritable DVDs to advanced forms of home insulation.

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