Practice Management Q&A

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Coding verus billing skills

Q: I am the new office manager in my husband's practice, but I have no experience in coding. Do you know where I can take a coding class that is only 8 to 10 hours in duration?

A: You don't need to learn coding; you need to learn billing. Coding is done by the physician. You didn't mention your specialty, so check with your medical specialty society first, because they either sponsor programs themselves or know the who's-who in your specialty. Many of them are available online or on DVD, or as a download from the most recent national meeting. Consider joining your local Medical Group Management Association chapter (see mgma.com) for peer support and/or contact the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (nschbc.com) to arrange for a trainer to come to you.

THINGSTO CONSIDER BEFORE ACCEPTING A JOB OFFER

Q: I am finishing residency in June and have a few job offers to consider. What should I look for besides a competitive salary?

A: Most new physicians join a practice without first giving it a thorough "history and physical exam." Asking pertinent questions will help you avoid joining the wrong practice, and knowing your rights in the practice ahead of time will help you and your employer avoid dragging each other to court in the future.

Be sure to get terms in writing. Most practices don't have employment or partnership contracts, and if they do, they are out of date or filled with legalese. A medical-specialist lawyer (find one at healthlawyers.org) can advise you on everything in such a document that could affect you. Consider:

* Location. The most important issue is deciding where to practice and live. You can earn a living anywhere, and it's better to start where you want to end up rather than relocating to another community or state later, Many physicians spend years building a practice in one location, then waste the fruits of the effort when moving closer to family later.

* Compatibility. Visit a practice for at least a full day so you can give people a chance to show their true selves rather than their "interview personalities."

* References. Call the medical director or chief of staff of the hospital where the employer has privileges, and say that you're considering joining the practice. Listen "between the lines" to their answers. To avoid "revolving door" practices, ask around to find out whether other associates came and left before you. …