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Patients not just saying "ahhh," but also saying "cheese" at the doctor's office

Why doctors offices are taking patients' pictures

February 14, 2011|Jean Jadhon | WDBJ-TV Anchor/Reporter

Saying "ahhh" may not be the only thing you are asked to do at your next doctor's appointment. You may also be asked to say "cheese."

When patients check in at Physicians to Women in Roanoke, they now have their picture taken with a tiny camera. "It doesn't bother me because that way they know who I am," said Gigi Shipp, a patient there.

Knowing who exactly is checking in is one reason behind the pictures. It's meant to cut down on insurance fraud.

"You'll have some patients that may not have insurance that will get a friend's card, bring it in and and pass it off as themselves," said Kim Sandras, Physicians to Women office manager.  It's also meant to stops physicians from billing patients they haven't actually seen.  

In a busy doctor's office such as Physicians to women where 12 doctors see a total of anywhere between 350 and 400 patients a day, the photographs also help out a face to a name. 

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The photographs are all part of a new federal healthcare law. "Doctors offices are not going to have a choice before long," said Sandras. Offices must follow many federal guidelines that mandate a switch to electronic medical record keeping, also known as E.M.R., explained Sandras.  "Instead of writing in the charts, it's getting rid of paper." 

That means everything is in the computer and regulated by federal guidelines and mandates.  "There are guidelines for just about everything that we have to do," Sandras said.

For now patients may notice more computers in the exam room and the camera at the front reception area. "I actually kind of expected. I work at a dental clinic and we began the same thing," said Keri Christley as she smiled for her photo before her appointment.

Patient Gigi Shipp said she believes it's an added safety precaution.  If  anything comes up they can take the picture and say 'hey that's her,'" Shipp said.

Patients are not required to have their picture taken and some have refused, said Sandras. 

Sandras said with the ongoing healthcare debate in Washington, D.C., she and others in the medical industry really aren't sure if the federal guidelines will change.

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