From the September 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Question: I'll be running an office out of my apartment and need a high-speed phone line. The telephone company tells me I need to be in a commercial zone to get one of these lines. Is it possible to find residential rental properties that will allow for this?

Stephanie Lee

Via e-mail

Answer: Although equipping a home office with high-speed phone lines is increasingly common in many parts of the country, your state may have regulations limiting access to such services. Fortunately, there are a variety of options for high-speed modem connections. Standard options such as ISDN (integrated services digital network) and ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) are dependent on telephone service. ISDN is older and slower than ADSL, but it's less expensive and more widely available. You can also get access via cable and satellite. Cable modems are lightning fast, and bandwidth is especially high with satellite access.

Here's what we recommend: Contact your phone company again and ask to speak with a representative who can help you with home office or home business phone services. Discuss ISDN and ADSL specifically. Also, contact your cable company and the satellite services in your area about what they offer. Go with the most cost-effective method--the one with the greatest bandwidth and speed that fits your budget. If none of these services is available at this time, they soon will be--unless, of course, you live in a very remote area.

Bill Me

If I start a billing and invoicing business, will it have a future?

Question: I'm considering starting a sideline billing and invoicing business. Do you consider this a viable option in view of the fact that more companies are purchasing computer equipment that can perform this function?

William R. Eaton

Wexford, PA

Answer: The issue for businesses that need billing and invoicing services is time, not technology.

Medical-billing services have been among the most popular homebased businesses in the 1990s, but the industry has become saturated in some areas of the country. Fortunately, a wide range of other health-care practitioners, from chiropractors to occupational therapists, still need this service.

Also, doctors who have tied their practices into managed care can be involved with as many as eight HMOs and PPOs, and continue to have fee-for-service patients for whom filing insurance claims is necessary. Consequently, many doctors are enlisting billing services for a variety of other back-office functions like invoicing, collecting co-payments, keeping track of past-due accounts and handling patients' billing-related calls.

You also might want to check out medical-claims assistance. Claims assistance professionals (CAPs) file claims for people whose doctors don't file private insurance claims.

Resources for finding out more about medical billing and medical claims include:

  • The National Electronic Biller's Alliance, 1730 S. Amphlett Blvd., #217, San Mateo, CA 94402, (650) 359-4419, http://www.nebazone.com
  • The Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals, 731 Naperville Rd., Wheaton, IL 60187, (630) 588-1260, http://www.claims.org
  • Rick Benzel's Making Money In a Health Service Business on Your Home-Based PC (McGraw Hill) includes a CD-ROM demonstration of medical-billing software
  • Entrepreneur offers a How to Start a Medical Claims Processing Service start-up guide (800-421-2300). And for the latest costs, income and marketing for these businesses, check out our most recent edition of Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century (Tarcher/Putnam).

If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact Paul and Sarah Edwards at http://www.paulandsarah.com or send it to "What's Your Problem?," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614.