By Martine G. Brousse
"The Medical Bill Whisperer... and insurance stuff too"
Patient Advocate, Certified Mediator
July 12, 2023
Who hasn't had to deal with this medical office staff member: uncooperative, unfriendly and seemingly uncaring, even rude and unhelpful. If you like the physician, or need action taken by someone there, how to reconcile your needs and rights with their schedule, training, orders...and attitude?
As a previous billing manager and occasional patient, I understand both sides (not the rude part though). May I suggest a little sugar to attract honey? Let me explain.
Consider the office situation
As the healthcare system is forever transforming, especially in the past few years, medical providers and their staff have had to adapt to a dizzying number of new restrictive insurance requirements, technological upgrades, legislative mandates and compliance deadlines.
Sweeping changes are apparent: clinical staff spend much face-to-face time typing away on tablets, automated appointment recall messages are the norm, phone calls to the Billing Dept rarely lead to a live person.
Cost-cutting measures brought on by the pandemic, the ongoing drive toward leaner financial operations, the rising price tags for new technology and lower insurance reimbursements have prompted offices to employ fewer staff, while workloads have increased in complexity and size.
Healthcare workers are too often overworked, understaffed and overwhelmed. As a billing manager, I understand their frustrations and limits, but this is the career they chose. Courtesy and patience toward patients is a must.
But let me propose some tips to turn these employees into allies.
1. Kindness is a good thing
Being demanding, using abusive language, "showing who you are" may get you a result in the short term. But a bit of caution: you will be tagged as "difficult". Under a coat of cold professionalism, your calls might go straight to voicemail as no one wants to answer them and you may not get quick appointments. Perceived abuse of one staff member (let alone many) gets around, and passive collective resistance grows in the face of divas and plain pains in the b---.
2. Bring patience
Understand that the receptionist has no power over the doctor falling behind on his schedule, or that your labs require a MD signature. Pushing staff around will not get the doctor out of another exam room faster. Electronic Health Records orders take more time to generate than the old scribble on paper.
Unless you witness employees playing Solitaire or chit chatting about the latest TikTok post, patience will help.
Do reschedule if the wait is too long. As this is not your fault, the office should be receptive.
3. Give a chance
As the saying goes, if I had a dollar every time a patient yelled at me without reason: "it's all your fault, you always make mistakes", I would definitely be writing these words from some sunny beach in the 50th State.
Because another office mismanaged your claim/info/labs/orders do not mean this office did or will. Incompetent billers and uncaring individuals abound, but I'd suggest to give the staff a chance to review and correct if needed. After all, misunderstandings can originate elsewhere.
4. Mistakes happen
While an occasional blunder should be corrected, to be blamed on an uncommon lapse then forgotten, report a clinical error to the physician immediately. Bring ongoing or un-rectified administrative errors to the attention of the office manager. An occasional error might be OK, but repeated issues are a pattern that must be addressed, for you and all other patients' sakes.
5. You can help
At your first visit, bring your ID and insurance card.
Prepare an up-to-date medication list and the names of other treating physicians.
Provide your preferred pharmacy's contact info.
Bring a translator if necessary, or one support person to take notes and help you remember your questions. More than 2 in a room is a crowd, though.
Consider booking the first appointment of the day or after lunch for follow-up visits. Fridays are usually lighter days; your wait time could be shorter.
Report any changes to your medication list, insurance coverage, health history or list of treating physicians.
Collaboration is one of the Cs in Success (or is it cooperation??). Helping the staff, with a minimum of effort on your part, should pay off, especially when you need a favor or expedited action. Cookies also go a long way....
But don't forget your rights and to stand by them!
Martine Brousse was a long-time Billing Manager for Physicians before switching to the side of patients in 2013. The move has allowed her to apply her deep expertise and vast experience of the intricacies of resolving all types of medical bill and claim payment issues in ways that directly and positively impact her clientsʻ finances.
(424) 999 4705 - F (424) 226 1330
@martine brousse 2023
@ the medical bill whisperer 2023