After a meeting Friday in Chicago with officials of WebMD, representatives of the American Medical Association say they are optimistic about the giant claims processor's promise to work to resolve an outpouring of complaints from doctors in various states about the company and snarled claims payments.
"The AMA is encouraged that WebMD has pledged to address these issues," said J. James Rohack, M.D., the chairman-elect of the AMA Board of Trustees.
The meeting came in response to a letter sent Jan. 8 to WebMD CEO Roger Holstein from the AMA, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians and state medical societies in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky and Texas.
WebMD is based in Elmwood Park, N.J. In addition to claims processing, it sells the Medical Manager computerized financial management tool and other IT services.
The physician groups alleged in the letter that claims sent through WebMD in a format compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 are sometimes never received by the payers, or are significantly delayed or transmitted with missing or noncompliant information.
The transmission problems have hung up thousands of dollars in payments to some physicians and hundreds of thousands of dollars to others, the AMA alleged.
The AMA began garnering complaints related to the new HIPAA data transmission standards after they went into effect Oct. 16. The AMA posted a HIPAA-compliant form on its Web site and complaints were compiled by the AMA's private-sector advocacy section, which is handling the discussion with WebMD.
The AMA would not quantify the number of complaints it had received naming WebMD as the problem, but compared with problems from numerous other sources, "physicians have identified WebMD most frequently as being non-compliant with HIPAA Transaction and Code Set standards," according to the Jan. 8 letter.
During the Chicago meeting, the ACP also had a presence, but the AAFP did not. WebMD indicated they would be following up with the AMA on a number of physician concerns, according to Rohack.
"We will continue to monitor this situation and work closely with our physician members, state and specialty societies and WebMD to see that all physician concerns are promptly addressed," said Rohack, a cardiovascular disease specialist from Texas, where connectivity clashes between systems run by WebMD and a regional clearinghouse, Texas Health Information Network, have caused problems for physicians.
WebMD's Jennifer Meyer, vice president of corporate communications, said the meeting was "positive and productive" and that the company used the opportunity to explain what it was doing about the problem and reaffirm "we are committed to deploying the necessary resources to make a smooth transition."
"We are working in real time to resolve these issues, and many of them have already been addressed," Meyer said.