Sunday, October 12, 2003

A Piece of Cake

I looked over the office lease agreement with a friend who is a lawyer, and while there were a few items that could be improved, overall it seemed in order. However, the landlord left for a weeklong trip to China so I have that long to think about it some more.

I attended the first of six Saturday sessions of a medical billing class yesterday at a local community college. It was attended by young to middle aged people, mostly female, looking to start a new and hopefully lucrative career. However, I wonder how many will actually be successful.

We learned the basic terminology (Medicare, HMO, PPO, clean claims, non-participant, EOB's, etc.), and functions of the various billing personnel. Not too exciting so far. Hopefully, it gets better.

The instructor was familiar to me, since I took a medical coding class taught by him several months ago. Except that for the coding class, I didn't tell him that I was a physician. Perhaps he wondered why I was always one of the first students to finish the coding problems he gave us. I figured he must have had other bright students in his classes before, so I wasn't a total anomaly. He told us several times how he would find coding jobs for the best students in his class. I was in constant fear that he would recruit me to go on a coding assignment for some doctor. (And I think I would've done a good job, too!)

From my observations, most doctors think of medical coding like I think of auto repair. It's a big black hole filled with incomprehensible terms and confusing concepts.

But honestly, coding is easy. Sure, there are some subtle bits of knowledge that aren't immediately obvious, but taking the coding class has taught me that it is a facet of my upcoming practice that I can definitely handle. If I can manage a patient with diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and asthma, then coding is a piece of cake. While I plan to do my own coding initially, I may eventually hire a coder, but it would still be in my best interest to understand what they are doing.

Anyways, by the end of the coding class, the instructor came up to me and said, "Where is your practice, doctor?" so I had to spill the beans. So far, in the medical billing class, I am just another student. I had to bite my lip a little when he started rambling about how physicians have to drive jaguars and get their Italian shoes, but surprisingly many of the students objected, saying things like, "Oh, my doctor isn't like that," and "Yeah, my doctor wears jeans and sandals."

Well, I can't blame the instructor too much. After all, he works at USC, where the doctors do drive Jaguars and wear Italian shoes. But they don't know how to code. And that is why this instructor is making the bucks.

Hopefully, by the end of this class, I will feel about medical billing the same way about coding. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford a Jaguar from my solo practice, but something to replace my 1995 Honda would be nice.

Countdown: 85 days until target start date