January is traditionally the time for new beginnings. I suppose that means someone, somewhere is unhappy that HCFA has decided not to begin enforcing the new Medicare documentation guidelines for E/M services this month. For most family physicians, however, the decision to postpone enforcement until July is a welcome relief. The new exam guidelines are so involved that six more months is hardly enough time to study them. Consider those six months a gift from HCFA, and prepare to use them wisely.
While I wish FPM could give you something as grand as six months, we are not a government bureaucracy and don't have anything like that to give. We can, however, offer you gifts that will help you use that time to best effect. The special section in this issue is made to order for this time of new beginnings, and the article on documentation and the new pocket guide bound in next to our usual reply cards can help you arrive at July 1 better equipped to deal with the new Medicare guidelines.
FPM Quiz goes online
Our third gift is a $2 savings in postage. The hitch is that you have to be an Academy member and you need a computer with Internet access to get the savings. You can now earn CME credit absolutely free from FPM — without even the cost of a stamp. Starting this month, Academy members can go online to take an interactive version of the CME quiz that accompanies every issue of FPM. Actually, any reader of FPM is free to take the quiz online; for technical reasons, however, we can accept electronic submissions only from members. Nonmembers will have to continue sending in the quiz card until we work out a few more kinks.
Here's how it works. Whether you read FPM in print or online, you can visit the FPM home page and access the online quiz by clicking on the “FPM Quiz” entry on the table of contents of the current issue. Answering the quiz questions is a matter of using your mouse to click “radio buttons” or check boxes for the answer choices you want. You can check your answers against the correct ones and review the questions you missed.
When you're satisfied with your answers, click the “Submit for Credit” button. At that point, you'll be asked to enter your member ID number and your password (your last name all in capital letters) and then to fill in a minimal amount of information so we'll know whose record to credit for the CME hours associated with the quiz.
Granted, $2 is nothing compared with a six-month reprieve from Medicare, but look at it this way: FPM is enriching your online life a little. HCFA, on the other hand, will soon be asking you to put your life on the line every time you code an E/M visit. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it does make a few extra stamps sound pretty good.