MS clinic thrives by making regular care a ‘loss leader’



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– Care for MS patients is expensive, and even non-profit treatment centers can’t survive on reimbursements alone. The solution, according to Terry Smith, CEO of the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Atlanta, is to transform regular care into a “loss leader” and embrace other revenue sources.

“The reimbursements for that 20- minute or 30-minute follow-up just really don’t cover all the resources necessary for comprehensive care,” Mr. Smith said in a video interview at the 2018 annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Clinics. “The model of the fee-based reimbursement just doesn’t work with MS because comprehensive care has to be supported by a variety of resources.”

Mr. Smith said his involvement in the MS community was sparked about 2 decades ago when his wife developed the condition. “I have seen what the center gets reimbursed for her office visit, and then what her neurologist gets reimbursed.”

The reimbursement for an MS patient’s follow-up, 25-minute appointment with a physician is $104.25, according to Mr. Smith. Yet these MS visits are “the cornerstone of treatment ... set the tone for how successful the care is.”

To make make up for losses, the Atlanta center has begun offering its own ancillary services. “Our doctors are at the forefront of telling patients we have a group of neurologists that handle both emergent as well as non-emergent neurology,” he said. “That offers a revenue stream beyond the patient encounter.”

Other sources include imaging and an infusion clinic managed for a local hospital through a professional service agreement. The Atlanta center also has created its own specialty pharmacy focused on MS. “We buy disease-modifying drugs, develop personal contact with patients on a regular basis, then develop an ongoing compliance-monitoring program,” he said.

Mr. Smith discloses a consulting fee from Novartis.

Watch the interview to learn more about the center’s efforts.

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