A Flexible Staff Is the Key to Billing for Small Practices

Guest post by John Squire, president and COO, Amazing Charts

John Squire
John Squire

Why do so many small medical practices give up a significant portion of their earnings to outside billers?  Depending on its geographic location, volume of billing, and other factors, a practice will pay an average of seven percent of its total revenue to a biller, which could be the difference between profit or loss, maybe even success or failure.

In many cases, the reasons given are that no one in the office has experience with medical billing and the physician doesn’t believe a small staff can handle the added burden of work. But if you dig a little deeper, these assumptions are often wrong.

As a developer of electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) software for small practices, my company hears a lot about billing directly from physicians and staff. We’ve learned exactly who does the billing and how they do it once a practice starts using a PM system for the very first time.

In one case, a medical assistant was able to learn everything he needed to know about billing from the PM product training alone. That’s because the physician specializes in podiatry, so the practice uses a limited set of billing codes. With a relatively light patient workload, this Medical Assistant has more than enough time to handle billing functions during normal office hours.

At another practice, when a gynecologist questioned her staff, she learned that her receptionist was eager to start doing something else, preferably from home so she could care for young children. The receptionist became certified in medical coding at a local community college on her own time, and now uses the PM system remotely and visits the office once a week every few weeks.

In a third practice we know, the pediatrician himself shares the work of billing with two of his part-time staffers, who welcomed the extra hours of pay.  One staffer had knowledge of billing from a past job, while another was eager to learn. They all handle billing together as a team, so there’s no burden on any single person.

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Report: Patient Portals Surging, Hospitals Still Faxing, and Cloud EHRs with Integrated Billing Key to Practice Success

Michael Lake
Michael Lake

One of the greatest sources of information that depicts the changes in health IT trends across the industry landscape is from Michael Lake, healthcare technology strategist. Through his monthly reports on the state of health technology, published by his company Circle Square, he provides succinct highlights from throughout the last month. Possibly, what’s best about these reports is that they cover such a diverse segment of the ecosphere.

For example, in one of his most recent reports, the focus was the EHR vendor sphere, cloud EHRs and their importance to independent practices, the use of faxes in hospitals, vendor news and transactions and practice portal insight, among other news.

According to his most recent report, cloud-based EHRs with integrated billing are quickly becoming a key to a practice’s future success as an independent practice. In his report, he cites Black Book as ranking solutions that seamlessly integrate electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management (RCM) and practice management (PM). Kareo tops on the list, per KLAS.

However, most practices feel that billing and collections systems and processes need upgrading (87%) and more than 40 percent (42%) are considering an upgrade to RCM software in in the next year . Most practices (71%) are considering a combo of new software and outsourcing services for improvement.

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