To evaluate the charges and reimbursement for pharmacist services using multiple methods of billing and determine the number of patients that must be managed by a pharmacist to cover the cost of salary and fringe benefits.
Large teaching ambulatory clinic in North Carolina.
Main outcome measures
Annual charges and reimbursement, patient no-show rate, clinic capacity, number of patients seen monthly and annually, and number of patients that must be seen to pay for a pharmacist's salary and benefits.
A total of 6,930 patient encounters were documented during the study period. Four different clinics were managed by the pharmacists, including anticoagulation, pharmacotherapy, osteoporosis, and wellness clinics. “Incident to” level 1 billing was used for the anticoagulation and pharmacotherapy clinics, whereas level 4 codes were used for the osteoporosis clinic. The wellness clinic utilized a negotiated fee-for-service model. Mean annual charges were $65,022, and the mean reimbursement rate was 47%. The mean charge and collection per encounter were $41 and $19, respectively. Eleven encounters per day were necessary to generate enough charges to pay for the cost of the pharmacist. Considering actual reimbursement rates, the number of patient encounters necessary increased to 24 per day. “What if” sensitivity analysis indicated that billing at the level of service provided instead of level 1 decreased the number of patients needed to be seen daily. Billing a level 4 visit necessitated that five patients would need to be seen daily to generate adequate charges. Taking into account the 47% reimbursement rate, 10 level 4 encounters per day were necessary to generate appropriate reimbursement to pay for the pharmacist.
Unique opportunities for pharmacists to provide direct patient care in the ambulatory setting continue to develop. Use of a combination of billing methods resulted in sustainable reimbursement. The ability to bill at the level of service provided instead of a level 1 visit would decrease the number of patients needed to pay for a pharmacist.