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Optimise Practice Billing

Some Options to Optimise the Billing Function at Your Practice

While the task may be both tedious and time-consuming, whether it applies to a plumbing service or a private medical practice, some means to optimise the billing process can be just as important as attending to the core business. Without adequate cashflow to sustain an operation, it can quickly become untenable and this is one of the unpleasant lessons of life that those who settle for a self-employed role must often learn the hard way. In practice, however, invoicing a customer for time and materials plus VAT is not overly demanding in terms of detail required. By contrast, submitting a claim to one of South Africa’s medical aid funds can be a process plagued by pitfalls for the claimants, especially since they are often distracted by the more pressing requirements of patient care.

So, what steps could you take to optimise your practice billing? Among the more obvious solutions would be to employ someone to handle the function on your behalf. However, unless your particular operation is already well-established, you may find it difficult to cope with the expense of an additional staff member, not to mention the added responsibilities that the appointment would entail. Furthermore, it would be a good idea to seek out a candidate who has an existing knowledge of the coding systems employed by medical aid funds or, at least, someone with the ability and willingness to master them quickly.

In the attempt to optimise the billing function at your practice, it is important to remember that patients are often personally responsible for at least a portion of their medical expenses. These so-called co-payments must, therefore, be levied from them directly. While your choice might be to assume the responsibility for financial management and to attend to the requirements of the task after hours, diplomatically dealing with patients who may be slow or unwilling to settle their invoices in a way calculated to maintain a tenable doctor/patient relationship is not among the topics normally covered in medical school. It has been estimated that, between them, South Africa’s private healthcare professionals forfeit millions of rands each year due to failed collections and late or invalid claims. This alarming statistic serves to underline the need for more general practitioners, dentists, and other independent therapists to seek ways in which to optimise their practice billing arrangements.

Given that so many aspects of life in the 21st century are dependent on computers and digital technology, even those who elect to manage their own business finances would not think of attempting to do so without a laptop and a suitable spreadsheet program, at the very least. However, while this may be a good way to get your sums right and to create a record of your income and expenditure, it is a limited solution and one that is not designed to cope with the technicalities of tasks such as the claims process. That said, there are certainly one or two dedicated software packages designed to optimise every aspect of the practice billing function and handling the many other administrative tasks with which the typical private practitioner in South Africa is required to contend.

Software packages, particularly those that have not been developed with the mass market in mind, tend to be costly, so it could take a while to recoup the initial investment. Also, the more specialised the package, the more likely it is to require ongoing maintenance and upgrades for which it might even be necessary to employ an IT professional.  As it happens, there are a couple of equally viable but substantially more economical ways to benefit from a software solution that could still help you to optimise your practice billing.

One such option is to outsource the entire task of financial management to a specialised medical bureau whose experienced staff will then assume responsibility for posting claims, invoicing patients, and organising collections when required, in exchange for a pro-rata fee. While some may find this acceptable, others may prefer some means to keep these functions in-house while avoiding the need for capital investment or extra staff. The answer is SaaS, or software-as-a-service. Ownership and the responsibility for maintenance remain with the service-provider whilst online and secure access to the required automated functionality can be enjoyed for a monthly fee. Let V Professional Services determine the best option to optimise your practice billing.

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