A practice's billing staff can be one of its strongest assets or its weakest link. When the staff members are carefully chosen and well-trained, a practice can see its revenues jump dramatically because of an increase in the rate of collections. On the other hand, a billing staff that doesn't meet those criteria can cause a significant loss of revenue, delays in insurance reimbursements, and more.
To have a successful billing department and a profitable practice, you need to start by hiring the right staff and providing the appropriate training.
Who to Hire for Your Billing Staff
In some practices, the billing staff is made up of people who have worked in other areas of the office before. The receptionist or check-out person may have been promoted to billing, for example. In other practices, the billing staff consists of one overworked individual who is bombarded with responsibilities which should be handled by several people.
Neither scenario is effective.
First, you need to have a billing staff consisting of the right number of employees for your practice's needs. The rule of thumb is that approximately one billing staff member is needed for each physician in your practice. But even if you operate a solo practice, you should consider hiring more than one person for this task if you want it done effectively.
Second, you need to take a careful look at how you hire for these positions. Medical billing and coding requires someone with special skills. If you don't do the hiring yourself, then you need to provide your human resources officer a list of personality traits to look for in potential new billing employees.
One of those traits is taking initiative. Collecting revenue for your practice requires your employee to get on the phone and follow-up with insurance providers and patients who haven't paid. Billing staff without initiative just aren't going to get anything done. Additionally, they need persistence. If they give up after one phone call, then your practice may never get paid. Any experienced billing staffer knows it can take a lot of calls and letters sometimes to get a bill taken care of.
Billing staff members should also be well-organized and good with details. You don't want them to misplace important paperwork or enter the wrong information into the computer. Not only can this cause problems for your patients and your insurance providers, but it can lead to Federal audits if too many billing errors occur.
Finally, you want to hire people who are eager to learn and who are willing to continue learning. Billing policies, insurance coverage, coding policies, etc. all change and your employee needs to be able to stay current on those changes to do their job effectively.
Initial Training for New Billing Staff
In an ideal world, you would want your billing staff to be well-trained before entering your office. In the real world, that doesn't always happen. Even if you are lucky enough to find candidates who have medical billing and coding training, you may find that what they know is out-of-date or inconsistent with your practice's procedures. That's why all new billing staff should undergo some type of initial off-site training.