Should Your Medical Secretary be in Charge of Billing and Collections?

Medical Secretaries are absolutely integral to running a successful private practice. You work across the whole business and know what is happening best. From bookings and billing, to typing and dealing with patient requests and queries, it is no mean feat.

But having to spin so many plates can stretch your capabilities to the max and this often results in you having to deprioritise certain tasks.

Plus, with patient numbers being bigger than ever thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s impossible to focus on everything all at once, isn’t it?

What challenges are facing medical secretaries?

Lack of time

While you may think that many tasks on your list aren’t all that difficult, the issue lies with your ability to balance these things from moment to moment each day. As a secretary, you’ll no doubt pride yourself in juggling these tasks - but nobody can do absolutely everything!

In addition to your general tasks of looking after your patients and consultant(s), there’s also plenty of compliance administration you have to consider such as GDPR, financial tasks like providing information for tax returns, accounts receivable and accounts payable, and remembering to sort out insurance renewals. None of which are particularly easy jobs.

The list goes on and on.

So, despite being a superhuman medical secretary, there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done to the best of your ability. And nor should you be expected to.

Being there for patients

What many take for granted about the role of a good secretary is that it’s not just about admin and paperwork. You also must have great people skills, as you are responsible for developing a first-class patient experience throughout their journey with your practice.

Many patients attending a doctor’s practice are anxious and likely stressed, and more often than not you are their first point of contact. Having an understanding, sympathetic manner and expert communication skills is vital.

You also need some specific knowledge about what the doctor does to properly screen calls and ensure that your patient is aware of what they must do before coming to the appointment. Similarly, you’ll often be asked questions about their symptoms, so you may have to triage some of these calls to decide if there is the need for urgent appointments, urgent notification to the doctor or some other appropriate action.

You’re also on hand when the patient is worried or upset after their appointment with the doctor. Helping your patient deal with potential bad news can often fall to you, so the need for a few kindly words and the offer of a cup of tea is often needed to get them on their way safely and back to their family or friends.

Medical billing and invoicing

Working in private practice requires a lot of complicated billing and there are frequently lots of factors to consider. It’s generally not just a case of adding a number to an invoice and sending it on.

You have to have an element of CCSD coding knowledge and ensure that medical bills are accurately calculated in order to avoid any potential issues with insurers or complaints from patients. If at any point there is a problem, it will slow down the payment process and can add to your practice’s debt level.

Medical billing is very specialist and incredibly time consuming. The process usually requires an expert team of specialists to support you so that your time can be better spent looking after your patients and consultants.

Medical practices do not operate in isolation either. There is a myriad of other services, insurance companies, organisations, and government departments you will need to develop good relationships with to help obtain fast and accurate payment.

Debt collection

We all know money and medicine doesn’t mix well. Despite the fact that private healthcare is known to be a business, UK patients are used to (and lucky to have) the benefit of the NHS and universal healthcare. As a result, having to pay for treatment comes quite unnaturally to us.

This means that unresolved payment of invoices and the build-up of debt is a major bugbear in private practices.

Nobody wants to be a debt collector – there’s nothing fun about chasing people for money. Particularly a patient who has been through a potentially stressful time with their health; the last thing you want to do is be insensitive and harass them with bills.

This last hurdle is the point where you can easily fracture your relationship with the patient and this can have a negative effect on their experience with the practice overall. They could have had a perfect journey from start to finish of their treatment, but if the last conversation with you is arguing about money, that patient is not going to be giving you a good review.

This creates a conflict of interest for you as a secretary. To the patient, you are that friendly, caring and helpful person that got them through the complicated process of private treatment – not the unsympathetic, faceless debt collector.

The amount of time it takes to successfully follow up unpaid debt is huge. This is why 10-15% of fees are often left unresolved – that’s quite a hole in your practice’s earnings.

How can a billing company help you as a Medical Secretary?

As an expert billing and collections company, Bill Medical can lighten the load by allowing you to focus your attention on running the practice, helping your consultants improve the business, and ensuring your patients get an excellent experience whist we deal with the billing, collections and debt chasing.

Our experienced team work seamlessly with both individual in-house secretaries and secretary groups and can easily slot in with your way of working. Here are just some of the benefits you and your consultant would enjoy from using our services:

  • The lowest bad debt within the industry: we have less than 0.3% across all our clients. This compares to a market average of ~5% and our nearest competitor which still has double our rate.
  • Increasing your consultants’ income: our negotiating power with the insurance companies, coupled with our fee advice and benchmarking has helped clients increase income by up to 20% over 2 years.
  • Giving instant details of who’s paid what, and who hasn’t: our Doctor Dashboard “App” can provide you with real-time financial information whenever suits you.
  • Business improvement advice: we have personal experience of establishing and growing clinical practices, and all the operational needs that entails.
  • Systems advice: we've worked with all the major practice management systems, and most others too, so we have a deep expertise in how to make the most of your existing one - or even how to select and change to a new one.
  • Cost savings for other services: we can also negotiate substantial discounts for a number of other services you might need such as Practice Management Systems, Website development or Marketing & PR etc.
  • Substantial discounts on Medical Indemnity premiums: we have an exclusive arrangement with Lockton, the largest independent broker in the world, for their insurance product which works off billing information. We can offer on average more than 20% reductions in premiums.

Here’s what one of our current secretaries has to say about working with Bill Medical:

“I have been working alongside Georgia and her Bill Medical Team for 5 and half years now. They have been invaluable to me as a secretary in this time, as nothing is ever too much to ask and their medical billing knowledge is second to none. Having them on board means I can do my job without having to worry about sending invoices, dealing with insurance companies, chasing debtors etc. Bill Medical are very friendly, approachable and efficient; I have and, will continue to, highly recommend them to anyone who needs to maximise their efficiency in invoicing and collection of fees.’’ Amy, Private Secretary to Dr Mike Rossiter and Mr Nish Srikantha

Working with an external billing company won’t cost your practice more. We have numerous client examples where we can show that the cost of our services are easily covered by the savings and fee improvements we have been able to achieve – and the secretaries for these clients are busier than ever helping manage and grow the practice.

Our focus is providing you with the highest quality service, so even if you've already got an existing provider, we can help you switch without any disruption.

If you're looking to improve your billing and collection processes and focus your attention on other tasks on your overflowing to do list, get in touch for a no obligation chat with our team to find out how we can help.