Medical Billing: How to Hire - and Keep - the Best Biller

Medical Billing: Hire the Best BillerGetting good results in billing starts with having the right employees. Getting a top-performing crew – and keeping it together – can be a challenge. Smart organizations know that hiring the wrong employee is costly – so costly, in fact, that it is well worth the extra effort to hire the right employee the first time around – every time.

Productivity, morale and, even, the organization’s revenue are at stake in the hiring process. Here are important steps – both in hiring and keeping – the best medical biller:

Know where to look. Staff can help recruit, too, so ask them for suggestions. A current staff member may have a friend who would fit in well with your operation. More employers are offering small incentives – for example, a $200 gas card – to employees who suggest a job candidate who turns into a hire. Managers and employees alike can network with colleagues at local medical billers’ associations. Many of these groups can also circulate the job posting. Turn to local training programs and community colleges when posting a position, as well as using advertisements in the local newspaper. Local community colleges and technical schools that train billing and office staff may be able to place interns. Internships can give you a view of how a potential candidate would fit with your team well before you ever need a replacement.

Get online. Online job listings like and can be expensive, but they will get the word out to a lot of people. Post the opening on your organization’s website and don’t forget about social networking. If your organization uses Facebook or Twitter, use them to spread the word about an opening. Staff might mention the opening to their online "friends" and "followers", too.

Put expectations in writing. A critical part of ensuring high performance is when everyone is on the same page. Set job expectations in writing. Go beyond the job’s title, because "medical biller" can mean many things. Determine the responsibilities and tasks that you expect from this position and outline them. New and current employees should be able to read your expectations and understand where their job fits within the department – and within the overall organization. Medical billing changes constantly, so if you haven’t updated job descriptions since 1993, it’s long past time for a rewrite. Ask staff to help, too. Of course, don’t leave out the important phrase "perform other duties as assigned." These five little words signal that you put high value on teamwork – and that change is inevitable.

Be patient. Yes, medical billing requires daily attention, but that doesn’t mean that you should hire the first candidate who walks in the door. Take your time, and find the right person. Consider employment like a marriage – the cost of a failed one comes at a very high price. Plan how to handle work on a short-term basis because you may need to wait to get the right candidate. If you’re hiring from another medical practice or billing service, the candidate may need to give two weeks’ notice. Don’t be put off by a top candidate’s desire to leave their previous employer on good terms – it’s a sign of respect. You’ll appreciate the same consideration when your employees leave.

Display the full compensation. Most job seekers focus on the hourly rate, but it’s likely that you have much more to offer, such as vacation time, health insurance, and other benefits. You pay for those benefits, so why not focus the candidate’s attention on them? Present the total value of your proposed compensation and benefits package – in writing -- when you talk to job candidates. Benefits can make up 25 percent or more of your compensation package’s total value.

Don’t overlook references. Research shows that Americans have a propensity to stretch the truth on their resumes. Check all references. Be on the lookout for anything appears sketchy (for example, all of the reference phone numbers are cell phones, or the voice of the “reference” sounds the same on every call). Look carefully at the company name of the reference, then call the main number directly and ask for that individual. If they’ve never heard of that person, you know the job candidate is trying to scam you. Speaking of scams, don’t skip the background check – essential in today’s recruiting world – particularly for someone hired to handle significant sums of money. Finally, verify credentials directly with the accrediting body – the American Academy of Professional Coders, for example, offers an on-line confirmation process to determine if a candidate actually is a certified professional coder (CPC).

Give a test. Developing a simple test of knowledge can be remarkably revealing. Questions to test what every medical biller should know could include: "What does COB stand for?" or "What’s the birthday rule?" Test also for basic (but essential) math skills, such as calculating 20% of $219.18. Black out the confidential information on an explanation of benefits from an insurance company that denied payment on the claim. Present it to candidates, asking them to walk you through how they’d handle it. If the candidate says he would write it off and call it a day, you know it’s time to conclude the interview. Consider administering a short, basic test to weed out the unsuitable candidates before you spend time checking references and doing interviews.

Start retaining from the get-go. Employee retention is important, and it doesn’t start at the employee’s fifth-year anniversary. It starts from the moment you present the job offer. When hiring, a professional approach is the best – present the candidate with a letter outlining the offer and the start date. Upon acceptance, don’t resort to email. Take the time to call the candidate and speak with him/her personally, showing your appreciation of their decision. Saying, "we’re so pleased that you joined our team" demonstrates that you value teamwork and are excited about the decision. Looking for a special touch? Send the candidate who accepts your offer flowers and a note of welcome. In sum, make a great impression upfront – it will pay off in helping to retain your best employees.

Staff turnover costs money and not just in recruiting costs. Depending on your personnel policy, you may have the expense of paying out a departing worker’s unused sick or vacation leave in a lump sum. Then there’s the disruption to everyone’s work as they cover for the vacant position while a new person is located. Then, after the hire, staff may have to scramble until the new person gets up to speed. And don’t forget about all the time and effort everyone has put into creating teamwork in the billing office; you and the staff will have reinvest some of that time in the weeks and months following a new hire. Smart organizations look for the right medical biller when they hire -- and make the effort to keep them around for the long haul.

About the Author

Elizabeth Woodcock, MBA, FACMPE, CPC is a professional speaker, trainer and author specializing in medical practice management. She has focused on medical practice...

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