Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Billing Office. Down the hall or down the road...is there really a difference?

I’ve heard all the arguments. In-house billing versus outsourcing; which method is better?

As an employee of an ambulance billing company, obviously I’m biased when it comes to the benefits of outsourcing. For many years I’ve sung the praises and can quote all the reasons why outsourcing your billing to a third-party- specifically Enhanced Management Services- is the best solution for any ambulance service. Maybe someday I’ll blog on that topic alone.

But, the subject of this piece has to basically do with the importance of communication with the billing staff….whether or not that staff is right in your own station or somewhere offsite.

I got your e-mail...but…

“EMS’ers” are busy….period! Especially those EMS’ers who also are part of administration. We all know that most administrators not only have to jockey a desk chair but also have to jockey the steering wheel of an ambulance and…. “Can you get all that done in time for the next Board meeting which is, um, this afternoon at 1630 hours?”

So who has time to answer another e-mail from the billing company?

The question is; can you afford not to answer that e-mail?

Time is money, as the old adage goes. If someone from the billing staff needs an answer it may well be because someone at the insurance company is looking for an answer. Insurance company representatives are quite nervous and just a tad inpatient. They don’t like to wait and they have the ultimate weapon at their disposal….the dreaded “denied” stamp. “Didn’t get back to me in half a business day, oh well, clear my desk, empty my inbox…ship it back denied. No sweat.”

What’s the billing staff to do? Your answer to their question is essential. But you didn’t answer, so they didn’t answer back to the insurance rep and now your claim is denied and the clock starts all over again. Dollars that may have arrived in your bank account next week will take another month and a half to resolve. It’s frustrating for the billing staff, but it will be even more frustrating to you when your return percentage is highlighted in red by the Board President and you need answers for him….um….by this afternoon at 1630 hours!

Then there’s the example of the Mayor who called the billing company because his mother received a second bill. He’s on the phone screaming at you when all you needed to do was answer the billing office’s question and that second bill would have never seen the light of day.

Sound familiar?

I’m a volunteer. I don’t have time…

Congratulations! This argument resonates with me, really it does. Those of you who are reading this that give of your time to train, run calls, re-train, run calls, train some more, write a trip sheet at 3 a.m. and then wake up at 5 a.m. to get ready for work….and…. all of this while attending two meetings a week to be sure that the trips get billed and the trucks stay in repair and make sure that you meet licensure requirements and for nothing but, well nothing….I get it! Really, I do. You are to be commended. It’s not easy doing what you do and your community should elevate you to sainthood for doing it all (good luck with that!)

But consider, if you’ve taken on the responsibility to make your community’s ambulance service happen, then paying the bills and ultimately interacting with the billing company to get those bills paid is vital to the success and overall health of your organization. Luckily, if your company is an Enhanced client you have many tools to interact with us (if your company’s not an Enhanced client we understand why you are so frustrated- so call me today and we can fix that once and for all!).

Enhanced does its best to make things easy, However, you must make use of those tools.

Holding off on reviewing your collection reports bogs down the process. Not returning e-mails for a few weeks causes claims with connected questions to sit in limbo and the billing staff cannot proceed to resolve the claim problems. The list of examples is endless.

Raise your right hand and repeat after me…

Now take this oath with me. It’s not too painful. “I solemnly swear to return an answer back to the billing staff within a reasonable amount of time, every time, from this day forward and without unnecessary delay!”

Communication is the key to a healthy relationship between the billing office and the ambulance administrator- career or volunteer. It works both ways. Enhanced clients have come to expect continual and effective communication- just ask them. But communication is a two-way street. We, the billing staff, can only be as effective as you, the administrator, engage with us in timely and effective responses to our inquiries.

If you help the billing staff, the billing staff will gain the ability to respond with quick and painless claim resolution.

The end result? Well, that’s simple. Problem claims will be resolved right away and be paid quicker. All this will free up more time for your billing staff to move onto the next issue with more efficiency and satisfaction. Your balance sheet is going to look better, your return percentage will rise and the Board president will have his answers by…..um….1630 this afternoon!!

So....what do you think about this topic? Take a minute to send us a comment.



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