How do you talk to your patients when it comes to insurance issues?

I wanted to write back and let the rep know that I’m not supposed to know all the work they have to do or is involved in my request.

Customer Service
Customer Service

Last week I contacted the web hosting company we use for our site. I wanted to add a feature to the practice’s website. I received an email back from the company explaining their fees for the extra feature. I felt they were charging too much, so I emailed them to let them know my thoughts as well as asked why the extra feature cost so much.

The next day, I received a patronizing email from the rep stating, if I knew anything-about web marketing and how to increase visibility (with the services they provide), then I would understand the benefits of their service and how it would outweigh the cost. She also mentioned that there was a lot of work in my request and also said their prices were reasonable.

I understand that sometimes email messages can be misinterpreted. One does not have the benefit of tone, facial expressions, etc., but the email felt condescending. My interpretation was, you think our services are too expensive because you have no clue about what we do.

When dealing with customers, one often gets offended because our jobs and companies are very personal to us. I’m guilty of this. When parents complain about my staff, my doctors, my billing department, or anything else, I take it very personal. And in the past, I ended up getting into lengthy – unproductive – discussions with parents. I’ve taken a different approach now.

I wanted to write back and let the rep know that I’m not supposed to know all the work they have to do or is involved in my request. I wanted to ask her, how I am supposed to know how their services would give me a return on my investment.

Why not take the time and show the customer the value in the service you provide? Show him how much the services are worth relative to the price he has to pay. She may have convinced me. Instead, she chose to get personal.

Not only did she miss an opportunity to educate me about her company’s services, but she also missed the opportunity to reach out and establish a connection with me, her client.

I started thinking if our practices treated patients like this. Were we condescending and patronizing? Do we expect patients to “know?”

One area I think practices may fall into this trap is when discussing insurance issues with patients. Fact is most people do not understand their health insurance policies. Patients/parents have heard about co-pays, coinsurances, deductibles and copayments, but they really do not know what it means, why they have these things and how it is going to affect their care.

Despite telling patients it is their responsibility to know what their insurance covers (and does not cover) most people do not bother to find out. They find it confusing. And who can blame them?

Instead of telling patients they ought to known everything about their health insurance coverage (or lack thereof most likely), take the opportunity to educate them. Advise them what they need to do, whom they need to call and what they need to look for in coverage; for example, well visits, preventive care and immunization coverage which is often missing in many insurance policies.

We may not have all the answers and maybe we can’t help patients navigate thru the insurance maze, but if we can find ways to put the “care” back in health care by helping patients with other things outside of their clinical care. We will strengthen our relationship with our customers/patients. Simply put, it is good for business.

Increase Revenue By Attending Coding Seminars

Either way, I encourage you to promote to your doctors the importance of attending coding seminars. They add a lot of value and ultimately, revenue to the practice.

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The other day I went to a pediatric coding seminar sponsored by one of the hospitals in the area. As I was sitting down, two physicians were chatting next to me. One of the docs said to the other, “…we come to these things all the time. This is probably our 10th year.” The other physician – apparently attending his first coding seminar – said, “Wow! Every year? Doesn’t it become monotonous hearing the same thing year after year?” The other physician explained that the seminar contained new materials and that every year they learn news things. “In fact,” said the doctor, “my office manager and head nurse come with me every year” suggesting the seminar was that important.

I came to the realization that there is such a need to educate doctors about medical coding.  If anything, the naive doctor should have at least known that ICD-9 and CPT codes are revised and changed every year. That reason alone is enough to justify going to a coding class at least once a year.

Every year, I attend at least one coding seminar. And every year I come back with lots of information and tips. But it seems increasingly more difficult to schedule time and sit down with my doctors to relay what I had learned. Sometimes, I got a few minutes, but usually, we never got around to it.

Last year, I decided to do it different. We closed the office for a day and I sent both of my doctors to a coding seminar. We had concerns about closing the office, like loss of productivity or if a patient got really sick. Despite those concerns, (the doctors remained on-call for emergencies of course) I thought a single day at a coding seminar would be worth it.

And it was. The doctors enjoyed the seminar immensely. They learned a great deal. They returned motivated and with a new outlook on how they diagnosed and coded for their services; which increased revenue in just a few weeks.

A few months later, I ran several reports and found new CPT codes the doctors started using as a result of attending the seminar. To our surprise, the codes not only had been reimbursed, but the codes had generated enough revenue to cover the expense of sending the docs to the seminar.

If closing is not an option, you can set up a lunch – or an after hours sessions – and make arrangements for a coding specialist to visit the office. Another idea is alternating doctors if you have coverage issues.

Either way managers ought to find ways for doctors to attend coding seminars. They add a lot of value and ultimately, revenue to the practice. I understand that most physicians are overwhelmed as it is with our current medical system. But coding is their livelihood. If doctors do not understand the intricacies of medical coding, they are in essence leaving money on the table. As a practice manager, we should try to do more to keep our doctors informed about changes in CPT codes, billing issues and new coding tips.

The Thing About Perfection Is

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The Vantage Clinical Solutions blog has a great post that talks about perfection and how our pursuit of it often times undermines our ability to become more productive and enjoy ourselves less while working.  

“Those who relentlessly pursue perfection – especially in areas that don’t need it – are destined to slow down, get frustrated, burn out, and eventually quit.  As you might imagine, this helps no one.” 

“Where it’s OK to be less than perfect are those areas that are mean to change and evolve over time – those areas that it’s really not possible to get right on the first try anyway; areas such as marketing messages, productivity, optimal workflow, and so on.”

As you think about a new policy, a new advertising piece, or a new postcard, remember that it does not have to be perfect the first time out of gate. It may take you a few times to get it right. Nevertheless, do not let your pursuit of perfection hold you back.