By HANS DUVEFELT
Almost every day I catch a suspicious fax needing my signature. Often it is an out of state vendor who wants my permission to provide a back brace for a diabetic patient, a continuous blood glucose monitor for a non-diabetic or a compounded (custom made) ointment of some sort that makes no sense from what I know of that patient’s history.
Often, I get a fax appearing to be from Walgreens, just asking me to sign and certify that so-and-so is under my care. Those faxes have Walgreen’s logo, my patient’s correct address and my own DEA and NPI numbers already printed. The problem is that 90% of my patients don’t use Walgreens 20 miles north or south of my clinic, but the local Rexall pharmacy. Once, I called the phone number on the fax and it just rang and rang.
I am convinced that his is just an illicit way to collect physician signatures, so the scammers won’t even have to get my signature on one form at a time. This way it’s like they’ve got their own rubber stamp to use again and again.
I suspect these scams are successful often enough to be quite profitable. I know this because I sometimes sign these forms almost automatically before I catch myself and toss them in the shred box under my desk.
One of the many dirty little secrets in medicine is that doctors get so many papers to sign that there is actually no way we could read them all before scribbling our signature if we still want to see patients, meet clinic revenue projections and match our own productivity quotas.
I used to joke that the only kind of paper in my clinic I didn’t have to sign was the toilet paper. In spite of our computers, we get more papers than ever before to sign. This is probably because everybody else, like the home health agencies, use their computers to generate more and more pages that require our signature.
The really disturbing thing about these scams is that these vendors are billing Medicare for things harried or otherwise inattentive doctors unwittingly “order”. The fact that they can bill Medicare means that they are somehow credentialed to do so.
It must therefore be way too easy to qualify for a place at the Medicare money trough.
Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.
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