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Relieve yourself of the chore of billing

Relieve yourself of the chore of billing

Outsourcing private practice medical billing and collection is often the preferred route for consultants in private practice. Simon Brignall explores some of the main reasons why this is the case

THE FIRST few months of a new year are often the time when a business seeks to focus on renewal and growth – and independent practitioners should be no exception.

For consultants in private healthcare, this can mean an extensive review of the practice finances, which often brings to light issues around medical billing and the impetus to do better.

Outsourcing of this key function has been a growing trend over many years.

As Medical Billing and Collection starts its 30th year in this sector, we are well positioned to see this in action because we have grown every year and we currently partner with more than 1,600 consultants across the UK.

A demand for the services of a billing company is now a wellestablished trend that even the pandemic failed to dent. Consultants especially favour outsourcing when they are new to private practice and want to spend their time developing their practice. There are also many benefits to outsourcing for practices of all ages and size.

Splitting medicine from money

The most important, and often overlooked, benefit from out- sourcing is that your medical secretary can focus on the patient’s clinical journey without having to worry about the business side of the practice.

Outsourcing allows this key relationship to remain warm and engaging as the two sides of the practice are split, leaving the billing company to focus on the financial side and those difficult conversations about money.

This not only improves the patient experience, but it is often also beneficial to the practice, as the secretary now has the time to respond to new and existing patient inquiries. This often translates into increases in revenue.

Years of expertise in the sector

The years of training that consultants go through to become experts in their field do not often prepare them for the challenges of running a business when they first venture into private practice.

Even busy practices that have been running for many years still can find this difficult, as procedures are not as robust as they should be and quite often not routinely followed.

As with some other billing companies, our fees are calculated against received income which means that we share the same objective. This important difference in a medical billing company’s business model means there is an inbuilt incentive to always bill the optimal amount and then ensure that these invoices are settled as soon as possible.

It is not uncommon for me to come across consultants who do their own billing, but this is never a valuable use of their time or experience.

Remember, time is a valuable resource and it is far more rewarding to use it more productively by choosing to see patients and leaving the billing to experts.

Reduced bad debts

One of the main reasons practices contact me are problems with their cash flow arising from their outstanding debt.
These challenges can be the result of a variety of reasons,
including:

  • Invoicing delays;
  • Problems with payment reconciliation;
  • Lack of a robust chase process;
  • Poor practice financial data;
  • Visibility of any of the above;
  • Limited patient payment options.

I regularly meet with practices where they have been writing off 5% in bad debts a year and sometimes even as much as 10% because of the challenges they have in this area.
As a professional medical billing company is purely focused on this role, they have robust procedures in place to manage these issues and often can provide you with a range of payment pathways.

The combination of all these factors will ensure your bad debts are kept to a minimum. Our bad debt level is less than 0.5% across the firm.

AN ANSWER TO STAFFING ISSUES

Staffing issues can be hard to manage at a practice level. I often get inquiries from consultants where an experienced medical secretary has retired and their replacement is struggling with aspects of the billing role.

Outsourcing often provides a simple yet effective solution to a range of staffing issues, because a well-resourced billing company means that the vital financial side of the practice is not impacted when the secretary is on holiday or is taken unwell.

This can be extremely beneficial with growing practices or groups where sometimes binary decisions about staffing need to be made due to the natural ebb and flow of their patient activity or group size.

Outsourcing means you always have the capacity of the billing firm on tap to meet your specific needs.

Service levels are maintained as key dependency risk is eliminated and issues that arise from problems such as the pandemic can be more effectively managed.

We at Medical Billing and Collection have had to switch many times between office and remote working in line with the latest Government guidance. We have been able to do this effectively, as all our systems are cloud-based to ensure maintenance of high service levels.

Best left to professionals

Medical billing is a complex task requiring experience and training. Remember that there are more than 2,000 Clinical Coding and Schedule Development group (CCSD) procedure codes as well as diagnostic codes to choose from.

On top of that, each insurance company has its own price list and rules in relation to how these codes can be billed, including formulas about the billing of multiple codes.

The CCSD schedule is updated monthly, so keeping on top of this can be challenging.

But failure to do so can mean the practice loses out on income or, worse, result in issues with the insurers from incorrect billing. I still come across practices that are not billing what they could due to errors in this key role.

Chasing outstanding debt requires a specific skill set and, for many medical secretaries, this is a task they do not relish, which in practice means it is often put off. A medical billing company provides a wealth of experience in this task, as it is core to what it does.

Simple way to adopt new functionality

Outsourcing can be the simplest way to provide a range of new functionality that was previously unavailable to the practice. And these new payment pathways often mean the patient journey is improved.

There is a similar impact on the practice finances too.

Billing functions that we offer clients include:

  • E-billing of private medical insurers and patients;
  • 24/7 payment collection via our card portal;
  • Billing and collection of self-pay patients ahead of treatment;
  • Client self-pay platform – for collection on the day;
  • Settlement of all outstanding invoices in one go.

Practice financial data

A common complaint I receive from consultants is the lack of visibility they have about their practice financials. Many consultants do not have easy access to up-todate and accurate financial data about their practice.

This is vital, as all practices rely on this information as the first step in the bill chasing process, otherwise the whole system is flawed. More importantly, without this data, consultants are not able to make informed decisions about their practice.

Our clients are given access to a full array of reporting tools to review their practice data via our software.

And they can access their information 24/7 allowing them to view reports detailing:

  • Amount invoiced – available at a summary or granular level;
  • Payments received – available at a summary or granular level;
  • Patient activity;
  • Aged debt.

These can be viewed based on a range of criteria including patient type, payment company and location

"The billing and especially the chasing side of private practice is not something medical secretaries enjoy and they are often happy to relinquish responsibility for this task"

Cost alignment

It is always good business practice to ensure your costs are correlated against received income, and as most billing companies work on a cost structure that is calculated against received income, this is an advantage

The pandemic’s impact has only reinforced the merits of this model.

What’s stopping you?

Practices give a range of reasons for delaying outsourcing.
The most common is the perception of a loss of control. This is best addressed through transparency.

It is important to understand what the billing company is doing for you, so access to practice data is key because then their performance can be reviewed. Transparency allows trust to be established – the bedrock of any partnership.

Some consultants worry about upsetting their secretary. But in my experience, the billing and especially the chasing side of private practice is not something medical secretaries enjoy and they are often happy to relinquish responsibility for this task.

Partnership is key

To establish a strong partnership with your billing company it is important to make sure you understand how it operates, its work flow and who will be responsible for your practice.

Our ‘intensive care’ onboarding process is managed by a senior dedicated personal account manager whose role is to foster a good working relationship with the secretary/ consultant and understand the nuances of the practice.

By removing the billing and chasing functions, this allows the secretary to focus on the higher-value activity such as patient engagement, which often leads to increases in revenue.

Simon Brignall is director of business development at Medical Billing and Collection