If you've seen a doctor recently, you know health-care providers are among the most time-pressured professionals. Many are so busy seeing patients, they don't have time to manage the finances of their medical practices.
"In a doctor's office, everything is either urgent or important or both. Billing is merely important, not urgent," says Merlin Coslick, executive director of Electronic Medical Billing Network of America Inc., a trade association in Watchung, New Jersey. "The staff tend to not attend to the billing as efficiently as the doctor would like, and doctors come to realize that by outsourcing billing to a dedicated billing service, it will be done in a timely fashion."
Given these realities and the financial pressures of managed health care, it's no wonder medical billing services are a fast-growing industry for entrepreneurs.
Medical billing businesses offer a wide variety of services. Billers enter claims data into a computer, electronically transmit claims through a clearinghouse to insurers, prepare paper claims, generate management reports, mail patients' statements, post payments, send notices to patients who haven't paid and suggest ways to improve billing procedures. Some billers also sell medical billing software or offer consulting services to health-care providers who want to improve their billing systems.
All types of health-care providers are potential clients for medical billing services, including surgeons, mental-health practitioners, optometrists, dentists, physical therapists, home health-care services, medical equipment stores and ambulance companies. And, because the field is relatively new, the market hasn't been saturated in many areas.
"Although you may occasionally cross paths with another biller," says Coslick, "competition is not a major consideration [in this market]."
Marcie Geffner is a Los Angeles freelance writer who reports on small business and real estate.