Written by: Erica Gray, Instructor, Medical Billing Department
Medical Billing: Is this the career for me? (My personal experience)
My first day in an official medical billing position made me want to get up and walk out the door. Say what? Yep, it’s true. Why? Because I couldn’t understand how I was going to juggle so many things all at once. It felt impossible. Now, into my second decade working in healthcare, I look back and I laugh. I am grateful that I stuck-it-out because it became easier as I got the hang of it.
I equate it to when I first got behind the wheel of a car. I don’t know how it was your first time driving, but it didn’t go so well for me. My parents went down some back roads and let me get behind the wheel. I couldn’t keep the car straight and kept hitting bushes on the side of the road. It just didn’t come naturally to me. I didn’t understand how I was expected to look ahead, look behind, stay in my lane, keep the correct speed ALL AT ONCE. After a while, it became second nature. And that’s what happened to me with medical billing. Things that seemed so tricky or difficult, became second nature. And duties that were so time-consuming that it felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day, were done quicker and quicker.
I have worked both in physician offices and for outside billing companies. And in my capacity of working in these healthcare organizations, the responsibilities that have fallen on the “medical biller” were not a one-size-fits-all list of duties.
Medical billing is this umbrella term for “get the doctor paid.” But unless you’ve worked under that job title for many different offices, it can be hard to understand exactly what “medical billing” entails. And even then, every office is so different, there’s just no way of knowing for sure what one medical biller in one office does versus another office. You have smaller offices that only have one person in each “department” – If you can even call them departments. Then, there are larger facilities where there are multiple employees in each department. Smaller offices will have more duties falling to the biller, especially if they are the only one responsible for “getting the doctor paid.” In larger offices, two medical billers might not even have the same roles. One medical biller might be in charge of patient collections, such as calling patients about past-due balances and trying to capture any monies they can before sending a patient to an outside collections company as a last resort. The other might be solely in charge of entering payment information from the insurance companies into the system.
I guess I can agree that the standard day-to-day general duties and responsibilities for a medical biller would be to enter billing charges in the patient’s account and submit the bill to the insurance company for payment and then enter payment information from the insurance company into the patient’s account. I’m going to let you in on a little secret… those “standard general duties and responsibilities” only make up about 50% of what a medical biller does.
Let’s start with an in-office medical billing position. Yes, you will have those “standard duties” that I mentioned above, but you will also have to verify a patient’s eligibility with their insurance, double-check that the front desk has entered in all the patient data accurately, and if not, you’ll need to correct it.
Then there’s entering charges and payments. This can take a lot of time. Even more time goes into dealing with problems. Working with insurance companies can be time-consuming and frustrating. The most challenging work is trying to get a doctor paid when the insurance company issues a denial, or when a patient hasn’t provided their correct insurance information and is not returning your call. You need to not only take action by submitting an appeal (for the denial) or calling the patient (for the correct insurance information), but you need to have a system in place to remind you to follow up. A lot of time is spent, following up on other people. Medical billers speak with patients and insurance companies daily. Whether it be for clarification on a denial or a patient calling about their bill, the phone calls take up a good chunk of your day. The biller also is responsible for balancing deposits within the practice management system and reconciling the deposits entered with the bank.
As you can see, medical billing positions in medical offices include a vast amount of roles and responsibilities, but it doesn’t stop there! Some responsibilities don’t even have to do with billing at all! In fact, in some medical offices, the medical biller might end up doubling as the receptionist or the office manager. And in very small offices, sometimes there isn’t even an actual billing position. Instead, the front office is a staff of just one person who is a “one-stop-shop” for the receptionist, medical records personnel, the biller, and the office manager.
This is why it’s so important to have a working knowledge beyond just revenue cycle management. (Revenue Cycle Management, RCM, is tracking a patient’s visit from their appointment to filing claims to receiving payment until the balance is zero.) In a busy medical office, a biller might be pulled from the back office to assist with front office duties. Things like checking patients in and out or answering telephones and triaging phone calls. Having a good grasp on what the receptionist does on a day-to-day basis is key for any biller to be able to jump in whenever it’s necessary.
Finding yourself in a career that is predictable or easy can be boring and lackluster. A challenging career, like one in medical billing, can be very rewarding. Yes, it will be challenging at first, but once you get the hang of things and become familiar with your duties, a lot of things will become a habit, leaving you plenty of time to tackle the tricky parts of the job. Another bonus is patients tend to treat medical billing personnel with similar respect as they would an office manager, which can help boost job satisfaction. And, as if that isn’t enough, the beauty in choosing a career in medical billing is that healthcare careers are in demand and expected to continue to grow, which offers a great deal of job security.
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