A helping hand just fits the bill

A good medical secretary is vital but, with the growing admin mountain in private practice, she may need outside help, argues Garry Chapman

The medical secretary’s role has always been crucial to a growing practice’s success because it is at the heart of all that happens on a daily basis.
Just five years ago, it was much easier to have one person carry out all the tasks associated with running the practice.
But this is not the case now with all the changes in private health care over the past few years. So it is becoming even more important to ensure your secretary has enough time to fulfil all aspects of the role.
Managing the multitude of practice tasks has become extremely time-consuming and it is almost impossible for one person to keep on top of everything.
Some of the areas that the medical secretary is expected to keep abreast of include:

  • Government policies and regulations affecting the market;
  • Private medical insurers changing their billing rules and fee schedules;
  • The Clinical Coding and Schedule Development (CC SD) group’s updates to medical codes;
  • Changes in insurance products such as ‘open referral’.

It is critical that any practice keeps up with the changes to these areas, as they can negatively affect a doctor’s re-imbursement level or, at worse, cripple a practice if not complied with.
And, of course, on top of all this, there are all the administrative tasks of running a practice on a day to day basis.
These will include booking the clinics, booking the operating theatres, typing the letters, answering the phone calls, responding to the emails, dealing with the patient queries and liaising with the patients regarding obtaining authorisation from the insurers, including liaising where appropriate with the hospitals.
Once the practice reaches a certain size, these tasks become insurmountable for one person. A secretary is also expected to be a master of all the skill sets needed to perform these tasks, a lot of which are specific roles fulfilled by one person in other walks of life.

These may include:

  • Medical secretary;
  • Receptionist;
  • PA;
  • Sales ledger clerk;
  • Payment/reconciliation clerk;
  • Debt-chasing;
  • Private medical insurer guru;
  • Agony aunt;
  • Project Manager

The individual with the combined skill set required to complete all of these tasks as well as fit them all into a normal working week is either a very rare breed or simply does not exist.

How can you help?
One option is to consider reducing the secretary’s workload by outsourcing your medical billing and collection to a specialist organisation.
This critical area takes up an enormous amount of time and requires the secretary to liaise with the patient about both medical and money matters – which, for most secretaries, is not ideal.
Many consultants think their secretary will not like this, but, from our experience, this is not the case. We find some secretaries may be reluctant to begin with, but once the transition has taken place, they do not want to revert, as it removes a huge burden.
Using a specialist organisation means the consultant reduces the amount they have to invest in both time and money in administration.
They also avoid having to spend valuable time learning and keeping abreast of the art and science of getting paid by insurance companies – allowing them to maximise time for their patients, and generate further income.
I understand consultants may be nervous about outsourcing their finances, but they need to balance that against the benefits and the current time the secretary needs to carry out all her tasks.
Outsourcing is simply another tool to assist in running the practice.
Do you need it? Why not carry out your own health check by establishing:

  • How much time is spent dealing with each aspect of daily secretarial tasks;
  • When was the last time the codes you use were reviewed;
  • When was the last time your practice reviewed fee schedules;
  • How much money you are owed and how old the debt is;
  • Which patients owe you the most money and when they were last chased;
  • Whether you are behind with billing, typing letters and responding to patient emails.

Your answers will show if any action is needed to ease your secretary’s workload.

Garry Chapman is managing director
at Medical Billing and Collection

The Benefits of outsourcing your billing and collection

  • Consultant-patient relationships are kept at the medical level and are not clouded by commercial aspects
  • Practice benefits from expertise in both medical codes and each insurer’s nuances
  • You can be sure all relevant information is present and correct when invoices are raised, meaning there are no delays in the insurer or selfpayer accepting the invoice
  • You have no delay in raising invoices, so they can be chased in good time to ensure bad debts are minimised
  • Following up on any shortfalls and dealing promptly with problems vastly improves cash flow
  • A variety of management and tax reports can be tailored to the requirements of each practice
  • Your billing and payments won’t be hit if your secretary is off sick

  • 01494 763 999
  •   Medical Billing & Collection
         Connery House
         Repton Place
         Buckinghamshire HP7 9LP

More than Just a Billing Company