Medical Coder and Practice Staff’s Ethics are More Important than Their Typing Speed

Medical Coder and Practice Staff’s Ethics are More Important than Their Typing Speed

There’s a code of ethics that automatically comes into play in medical offices and employees are cognizant of this.

Staff and medical coder are aware that they can’t share personally identifiable information with outside sources, but what they don’t realize is that a casually made comment can also break the bonds of ethics and the law.

Medicalmedical coder billing and coding specialists deal with confidential information each day.

It’s important for them to perform their tasks with alacrity, but it’s imperative that their moral and ethical standards surpass their typing speed.

Practice owners want reimbursement claims filed as quickly as possible, but they can’t overlook or tolerate a breach of confidentiality no matter how efficient the medical coder is.

Practitioners have a myriad of state and federal agencies with which they must comply or they open themselves to lawsuits. A medical coder who gossips and shares patient information with anyone else is placing themselves at risk, along with the practice owner and the entire medical facility. Penalties can be leveled through civil, state and federal agencies.

Don’t run afoul of common, statutory, administrative and case law.

There are four law classifications by which clinics’ owner, staff and medical coder must operate – common, statutory, administrative and case law. They can be confusing and vague, but it’s essential that clinicians become familiar with each.

A practice is considered common law if it’s accepted as fact by the majority of the population. Common law practices don’t have the force of a governing entity behind them.

Statutory law is legislative in nature and can be created at the local, state and federal level. Administrative law encompasses sets of rules made by government bodies or officials that allow them to administer statutory laws. Case law is made by courts when they interpret administrative and statutory laws.

The penalties for loose lips are severe.

The penalties for breaking confidentiality not only by the medical coder but the rest of the practice staff are significant, far reaching and determined through civil law if a patient decides to sue. The court can rule to award monetary amounts to clients for medical expenses, lost wages and distress. In civil cases, some practitioners choose not to go before a jury, admit no guilt, and settle out of court for a specified monetary amount.

Medical coder may find themselves facing misdemeanor or criminal penalties for their lack of discretion, as well as the clinic owner by extension.

The consequences are fines and jail time for a misdemeanor. Those who violate HIPAA standards could serve jail time for a felony. Fines in such cases have ranged from $50,000 to over $4 million.

medical coder and staffMedical coder must treat each client’s data as highly confidential, even if it seems that a particular bit of information is common knowledge.

Stay vigilant

Patients must give permission before their information is shared and they must designate with whom. Those medical coder or other members of the practice who violate HIPAA codes in any way must be prepared for the consequences.

Failure to adhere to HIPAA regulations will result in litigation that can damage a practice so severely that it never recovers.

Even if everyone, including the medical coder involved, are found innocent, clinicians will contend with a loss of reputation, clients and revenue.

No matter how skilled a coder is at efficiently submitting claims, it’s not worth the risk if he or she doesn’t come equipped with a superior set of ethics.

Supply, Demand, and Combatting Limited Reimbursements of Insurance

Supply, Demand, and Combatting Limited Reimbursements of Insurance

The way healthcare insurance is viewed and paid for has evolved significantly over the last century and the law of supply and demand is the rule of the day.

The business of selling insurance is a multi-million dollar industry, the sole purpose of which is to make money for the company providing the services.

insurancePatients no longer visit their local insurance provider to obtain coverage. Insurance is packaged and sold like cars and the latest deodorant through state-of-the art advertising agencies.

Supply and demand dictates that if there’s a consumer need for a service or product, someone will provide that product or fill that need.

The Law of Supply And Demand

Consumers mistakenly believe that as more customers enter the market and purchase insurance, the cost will eventually go down. In a capitalistic system, that’s not necessarily true. If the revenues to be made are great enough, the cost will continue to increase as insurance providers strive to make ever greater profits.

Healthcare insurance providers charge the maximum amount that the market will allow for premiums.

The result is that consumers pay more for their healthcare insurance and malpractice insurance continues to skyrocket for medical professionals. Practitioners must charge sufficiently for their services to cover these costs and make a profit, while remaining competitive enough to attract new clients.

Payments versus Actual Costs

Healthcare insurance typically pays hospitals, labs and medical providers a set fee for services. In many instances, that payment doesn’t cover the actual costs involved.

Medical professionals must then decide if they will accept the insurance reimbursement as full payment, bill the difference to patients and face additional costs involved in collecting the debt, or if they want to offer the service at all.

To offset costs, medical providers need to create multiple revenue streams. Depending upon factors that include geographic location, clientele, patient load and availability, clinicians can do this through a wide variety of means. They can charge parking fees, write a book, schedule speaking engagements, add new services or develop new products.

Playing the Money Game

The primary way practitioners are paid is through reimbursement claims, which is normally prepared by medical billing professionals, to insurance companies, but there’s a dirty little secret lurking in the shadows. Insurance companies invest the funds they collect from clients to make more money. Each month that the firm can retain those funds, the company makes more on its investments.

That means healthcare providers are often forced to wait for up to three months to be reimbursed for their services. Insurance providers have teams of specialists whose job it is to calculate the fair market price for medications, office procedures and surgical interventions.

Insurance companies say these teams are eliminating waste, but the truth is that their job is to identify ways to reduce reimbursements paid to medical professionals.healthcare insurance

Clinicians who choose not to offer specific services run the risk of losing clients to competitors who do.

If they accept insurance company reimbursements as the total payment for services rendered, they lose money.

Increasing patient numbers is one way to grow a clinic’s revenues, but creating multiple revenue streams is the most desirable. Funds coming in from a wide variety of sources will benefit practices in times of feast or famine.

Medical Billing And Coding Outsourced

Medical Billing And Coding Outsourced

Medical billing and coding are indeed a very complex subject.  It is important to analyze whether your practice will need an in-house medical biller and coder or have it outsourced.

Nitin Chhoda gives some factors to consider in order to guide your physical therapy practice when it comes to your medical billing needs.

medical billing and codingOutsourcing often increases efficiency, especially in technical fields like accounting and medical billing and coding.

Within a single office, a number of practices can be serviced by a handful of highly skilled professional medical billers and coders.

They can focus all of their resources and attention on efficiency and a system that works. At a medical clinic, the primary focus is often the patients, as it should be.

Reasons to Outsource Your Medical Billing and Coding

Here are some very good reasons that a practice should consider outsourcing medical billing and coding. For the most part, the decision will be financial. But to determine whether or not it will be worthwhile for your practice to outsource can be so complex that identifying key reasons to outsource will help.

You’re New

New clinicians or health care providers have a whole host of things to worry about. How do you maintain a steady stream of patients?

Does your practice have the in-house testing capabilities necessary for the needs of the community? How do you balance the business side with patient care? How many hours per day should you be seeing patients?

Probably the top concern is how your patients are doing, how they feel about you, and whether or not you’re helping them. Managing a business at the same time as you’re learning what it means to run a private practice can be overwhelming.

Staff Turnover is High

If you are handling in-house medical billing and coding, but have to hire a new biller or coder regularly, your practice will suffer.

The learning curve for medical billing and coding is unforgiving and even a skilled medical billing and coding professional is going to be slow to start as they figure out your particular system. For practices that can’t seem to keep medical billing and coding staff members, a consistent service from elsewhere will be more efficient.

Inefficiency is Obvious medical billing and coding oursourced

Outsourcing has a couple of major benefits, and one of them is that rejections and denials are usually decreased when you outsource medical billing and coding.

If you are experiencing problems with collections and your rejection and denial rate is high, it may be time to consider giving the job to a service that specializes in getting claims accepted.

You Don’t Want to Focus on Billing

Chances are, you don’t want to think about medical billing and coding. As critical as getting paid is to the health of your practice, if you became a doctor because you want to help people feel better, billing is probably an annoying part of your job.

Not to mention the fact that an incredible amount of tech savvy and skill is required to make your medical billing and coding system efficient and effective. Many clinicians decide that the billing side is the part they don’t want to know about – they’d prefer to let someone else worry about the medical billing and coding courses so they can continue to provide a service to the community.

Medical Coding As A Modern Necessity

Medical Coding As A Modern Necessity

Nitin Chhoda provides reasons why medical coding is necessary and the role it has in a private practice setting.  By defining what medical coding is and what codes are involved, it helps simplify the process for practice owners and staff.

medical codingWhat is medical coding?

Medical coding is an important step between the treatment of a patient and medical billing for the procedures, tests, and services. Clinicians will talk to patients, administer or order tests, and write down notes about each visit.

Those notes may describe what the patient needed, and in turn a medical coding staff member will translate each billable item into the assigned medical code.

Every doctor, medical clinic, and hospital must record a patient visit and include any procedures and tests performed. No matter whether the patient, their health insurance company, or another party is paying the bill, medical coding will take place to document how the bill should be drawn up.

What are the codes that are used?

There are a few kinds of necessary codes that medical coding staff members handle. The first is ICD-9 codes, or the International Classification of Diseases codes.

The number 9 refers to the version of this form of classification, and in 2013 a new version will be introduced, ICD-10.  CPT codes, or current procedural terminology codes provide a list of alphanumeric codes used by medical coding professionals in the United States.

HCPCS codes, or Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System codes, are used for Medicare and other insurance programs. All codes were developed in an attempt to streamline and standardize the way medical procedures and tests are described and billed.

Why is this necessary?

The most interesting thing about medical coding is that it comes from an interest in standardization. The fact is that most medical procedures can be described in a single way – medical tests and processes have been developed over time, and while that development continues, clinicians are taught a right way to do things fairly consistently.

modern medical codingMedical coding allows a medical facility to bill for anything using a standardized system.

If one hospital performs a surgery and describes it differently from another hospital, even though the procedure is essentially the same, a health insurance company is going to have a hard time determining whether or not they truly are the same procedure.

Rather than spending the time guessing about the appropriate amount that should be billed, medical coding allows everyone to agree in advance that a certain code can be billed at a certain rate.

Does that really work?

The sad thing is that this attempt at a system works in some ways and fails in other ways. The first problem is that health insurance companies change their billing requirements constantly.

Even if a certain medical code is used for a certain test, the billable amount for that test may have changed. Laws attempt to keep things flexible and reasonable, but everyone is still trying not to spend any more money than they absolutely have to.

On the other hand, medical coding has made it possible for trends in diseases and public health and safety problems to be tracked at local and national and even international levels. This kind of information and the data collected through medical coding can help to improve medical care.

Medical Billing Basics

Medical Billing Basics

The basics of medical billing and its role in the physical therapy business are shared by the licensed physical therapist, Nitin Chhoda. He emphasizes the difference between medical billing and regular businesse billing.

medical billing basicsClosely followed by the process of medical coding is the medical billing step. These two important parts of any practice are closely related and intertwined.

They work together like the contract administrator and the biller who must base billing on the details of the contract.

In small practices, the medical coding staff member is the same person as the medical biller. It is likely that this trend will continue as medical coding and medical billing systems become more efficient and more integrated.

What is medical billing and why is it different from other forms of billing?

The primary difference between medical billing and any other billing is that medical billing requires an incredible amount of attention to detail and specific codes for each procedure. Naturally, there are other billing processes that are similar, but medical billing seems to be one of the most complex of them all.

Medical billing is what health care providers and health insurance companies go through to get medical expenses paid to the health care provider. The first step is the visit of a patient to the health care provider. The clinician will attempt to diagnose the problem the patient is having in an attempt to classify the exchange for the health insurance company.

Medical Coding and Billing

The billable services are then coded by the medical coding staff member and those codes are used for medical billing to the health insurance company. The rates for services are pre-set by the insurance company and the clinic, which is why clinics only take certain types of health insurance.

They have to negotiate prices with each company they work with. If there are any mistakes in the medical billing service and process, the insurance company will reject or deny the claim.

A rejected claim is a bill that has some clerical, invalid codes, or any other minor detail that can be a cause for rejection. Rejected claims must be researched by the medical biller and re-submitted correctly.

medical billing basicsDenied claims have been processed but the insurance company has deemed them unpayable. A denied claim can be re-submitted or appealed if the medical biller believed the denial was unfounded.

Medical Billers and EMR

Medical billers have to deal with about a 50% rejection and denial rate. There are so many opportunities to make mistakes and insurers are much quicker to deny or reject a claim than they are to pay one.

The back and forth can be frustrating and exhausting. But more importantly, this paperwork headache is incredibly time consuming. Medical billing has turned into a very inefficient process and medical billers can start to feel that they are wasting incredible amounts of time just because of a tiny mistake. Medical billing can be a tough job.

Electronic medical records are attempting to streamline the process, however, and the job of the medical biller may get easier in the very near future. Many EMR systems are actively marketed as easy-to-use for medical billing. They can decrease the occurrence of mistakes and speed up the corrections process.

Medical Billing — 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid

Medical Billing — 5 Mistakes You Must Avoid

Nitin Chhoda reveals the 5 mistakes that a practice owner should avoid when it comes to medical billing. In order to have a successful practice, time management and prioritization are crucial to the billing process.

medical billing mistakesMedical billing mistakes are easy enough to make, and unfortunately even the smallest mistake can cost a practice a lot of time and money.

While there are some mistakes that simply cannot be avoided, there are some basic rules for avoiding the major mistakes that most medical billers and medical clinics make.

#5: Understand the Explanation of Benefits

The explanation of benefits, or EOB, is going to sound like the final word from the insurance company every time. But the EOB should be used as a tracking tool and should be carefully read and understood each time your practice receives a payment.

Insurance companies take any opportunity to point out the medical billing mistakes being made, which can make it feel like they are detail oriented to an unimaginable degree. But the truth is that they make mistakes, too. And it will be up to you to catch them.

#4: Follow Up on Every Submitted Claim

In the medical billing world, once a claim is submitted, there is often the sense that it has been dealt with and now it’s time to wait and see what happens. Medical billing is hard enough and takes a lot of time, so once the paperwork is in the hands of the insurance company, billers are unlikely to want to spend any more time thinking about the claim.

But time and again insurance companies let things go or don’t receive claims, and the practice suffers the consequences. Large sums of money are lost every year because nobody has run an aging report and reviewed unpaid claims.

#3: Create a System that Works 

This may seem obvious, but every practice needs system for photocopying IDs and insurance cards, planning time for regular billing, and ensuring that claims are filed and checked on in a reasonable amount of time.

Delays that medical billing claims experience cost the practice money. Set aside time for each task and make sure that a procedure is followed for every patient and ever visit.

#2: Know Medical Coding Practices

medical billing mistakes to avoidA medical biller may or may not the be the same person as the medical coder, but either way the biller should understand the basics of medical coding.

The medical billing mistakes that cause claims to be denied or rejected often have to do with incorrect codes or insufficient medical coding.

#1: Billing is the Biller’s Top Priority

Especially in smaller practices, the staff member who handles medical billing service may have a whole host of jobs to do. They could also be the medical coder, the receptionist, and the scheduler. The problems arise when the medical billing is not given high enough priority in the list of things to do.

Without efficient and timely medical billing, the practice will suffer. Unfortunately we cannot rely on goodwill and good medicine to ensure that patients and clinicians experience a mutually beneficial outcome. Medical billing has to be a high priority, including the previous four ways to avoid mistakes.