9 Ancillary Services That Can Boost Practice Revenue

Leigh Page

Disclosures

August 07, 2014

In This Article

1. Allergy Therapy

Providing immunotherapy to patients with allergies is a potentially enormous field for PCPs who traditionally have not done this work. You have enough candidates for the therapy right inside your practice: One in 5 Americans has environmental or food allergies, and many are not aware of their condition, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.[1]

Rather than just prescribing antihistamines that mask symptoms, PCPs could do their patients a real service by identifying allergies in patients through testing and providing immunotherapy that targets the underlying condition. This involves building up patients' immunity to a specific allergen by delivering progressively stronger doses over many months, usually through injections.

Allergists have traditionally provided this service because it takes special training to deal with such risks as life-threatening anaphylaxis. But in recent years, more PCPs have been getting this training, and in many cases, they are contracting with outside immunotherapy companies to provide the materials and much of the expertise in preparing the doses.

Dillon Plaza Family Medicine Group, a small practice in High Ridge, Missouri, started offering immunotherapy 3 years ago, using an on-site lab technician provided by United Allergy Services (UAS), based in San Antonio.

"We wanted to be a one-stop shop," said MaryLynne Pope, who manages the practice. Because UAS provides almost all of the equipment, "we immediately started making money," she said.

The process starts with identifying candidates for testing through questionnaires. If the test is positive, the physician discusses treatment options. About 3-4 patients enter immunotherapy at Pope's practice each week and get regular shots for as long as 3 years. Insurance coverage varies, but patients are usually covered for some aspect of the process, Pope said.

Practices that use UAS typically make $5000 to $10,000 a month from the service, according to Mike DelVacchio, Chief Commercial Officer at the company. He said PCPs are a natural fit for the work. According to a UAS-commissioned survey, two thirds of allergy sufferers would rather get treatment from a PCP than from an allergist. DelVacchio said patients feel more comfortable with their regular physician, and because allergists are relatively scarce, using one of them can involve waits for an appointment and long travel times, he said.

Although allergists are still needed to treat the more serious cases, PCPs have begun to dominate the field. DelVacchio reported that 15,000 PCPs -- more than 5 times the total number of allergists -- are now billing under the CPT code for immunotherapy.

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