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Primaries free and specialists pay for scheduling platform - issue?

February 4, 2016
Question:

Jennifer,

I recently was asked by a large primary care network that refers patients to me to sign up with a new technology company that helps schedule referrals from the primary care providers to specialists like myself. The program is free for the primary providers but costs a lot of money for the specialists. 

I feel this may in some way trigger anti-kick back rules as there is an incentive for the primary care providers to preferentially refer their patients to specialists that are signed up with this program as it indirectly benefits them in terms of reduced need for staff etc. 

The platform is not doctor owned; the owners are independent as far as I know. 

Any advice on the subject would be appreciated. 

Thanks. 
Dr. J
 
Answer:

This is a bit of a loaded question without more information.Going on the information provided, if there is no incentive for patient referrals and we're just talking about an independently owned internet platform that charges generalists and different rate than specialists, I may be okay with that - pending review of any contract or otherwise. 

If there is a benefit directly related to fostering patient referrals then there may very well be reason for concern.  If the fee paid is by patient, or rate or volume of referral, we may have  an issue. 

Happy to review with more details.  

 
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