I trained a medical secretary in the noble art of medical invoicing recently.
Having your medical secretary handling medical invoicing isn’t something I’d recommend for a number of reasons. First and foremost, over the years medical invoicing or medical billing has become far too complicated to be done on an ad-hoc basis.
This is not to say a medical secretary can’t understand how to invoice. Of course, he or she can. Given enough time, effort and training the ability can be developed.
If you think about it there are only a certain number of hours in a working day.
Into those hours a whole multitude of tasks has to be done. In the case of your medical secretary most likely she’ll have to answer the phone, book clinics, answer emails, meet patients, take down patient details and generally act as the first port of call for any issue within your practice. And then sometimes is added the task of medical invoicing.
Invoicing an entire clinic list does NOT take that long – provided there are no interruptions.
Add numerous interruptions (the phone rings, the hospital want to alter clinic times or YOU want something) and medical invoicing will prove difficult. Then throw in incorrect patient insurance details – even MISSING patient insurance details – and the thing becomes a nightmare.
She was – and still is – very, very good at her job.
I spent enough time to train her and demonstrate what to do if a patient’s records were missing, where to find a CCSD code, how to find the correct fee from an insurance company. I also trained her how to allocate cash and deal with shortfalls and excess amounts deducted by an insurance company. She got it. All of it. She was more than capable of handling any medical invoicing.
She was very good at medical invoicing. Right up to the point she had to do it on top of her other aforementioned duties.
I did warn her this might happen. I did share my fears both with her and with the consultant. The consultant was firmly of the opinion that provided all the details were correct, there should not be a problem. But there was.
What was really significant was the med-sec telling both of us she was simply running out of time.
She would start the invoicing process at the end of each day around 5 pm (I taught her well) but before she had even blinked (her words) it was 6 pm and time to go home. So she tried to work faster.
Sometimes she’d undercharge a surgical episode. Sometimes she would omit to charge a consultation because she hadn’t got time to stop and correct the patient’s details that were wrong.
So she tried – and I truly admire her determination – to “fit” the invoicing in around all her other duties.
The whole invoicing process collapsed! It was fascinating to hear her talk about invoicing taking an hour each day when straightforward but take “ages” when it was not. She literally was losing track of time.
If that wasn’t bad enough losing track of time was having a knock-on effect.
She simply didn’t realise that other tasks she had to complete each day weren’t getting done.
Of course, this tale is all very interesting but what is the worth in it?
The worth comes from realising WHY the cash flow had suffered, WHY existing patients were starting to complain the phone wasn’t being answered and WHY new patients couldn’t make an appointment!
There are only a certain number of hours in a day.
Try and cram into those hours more than you can successfully achieve and you could very easily find your private practice in difficulties.
In other words, if you lose track of time, sooner or later you will lose money too.