March 01, 2009
5 Minutes With
Judy Lambert manages two busy pediatric practices for physicians Amanda Lovette, M.D., P.A., and Anissa G. August, M.D., P.A. in Decatur, Texas. She has eight staff members and does everything from practice management to working manager, billing and collections to accounts payable - anything and everything. They are in the process of moving to a new building.
"There is a cost sharing advantage that benefits the practices, which have two separate employer tax IDs under one roof," she says. Their offices are totally electronic. They use three different software systems: two EMRs, and a practice management system. Every desk has double monitors on them.
"It makes it easier and more efficient when you're trying to do billing and verification process. The best thing in our office, we verify every patient before they walk in the door, and at least once every three weeks, it checks when someone drops off, etc. It tells us what they owe us and what we collect from them. We collect 50 percent of our charges. We know exactly how much we can collect from our patients. We are generally we are on top of exactly what they owe. We don't chase them down, they feel good about coming and vice versa. It has made a big difference in our cash flow."
One of the physicians has been in practice here for three years, and the other just completed her first year. They are both profitable practices. Their EHR software, One Encounter Pro, has helped them keep their records in check.
"It performs a scrub and kicks it back if your subscriber ID doesn't match or you have invalid code. You know automatically and that has really helped bring our dollars back under control."
Judy has more than 25 years of experience working with physicians. She attributes much of her success to a strong foundation in learning, hard work and years of experience managing different sizes and types of practices. At one time, she was a regional manager with MedClinics in Fort Worth where she had six or more physicians in her charge. She has worked for a surgical clinic as a business manager. She also worked with a gastrointestinal physician who operated his own ambulatory surgery clinic until she and her husband relocated to Decatur three years ago.
She has been in and out of the medical field over the years. She has a background in nursing and her family lived oversees in Iran for four years. Shortly after she returned to Texas, she took a job as a coordinator for CareFlight Air Ambulance Service in Dallas-Fort Worth. She worked as a liaison between Methodist Dallas & Methodist Fort Worth hospitals where she trained nurses to stock the aircraft and get it off the ground in five minutes. After the first year, she turned everything over to the physicians, and decided to go into the oil and gas industry.
In addition to her work with CareFlight, Judy has an extensive management background. She has worked for a surgical clinic as a business manager. She also worked with a gastrointestinal physician who operated his own ambulatory surgery clinic.
Judy has multiple certifications under her belt including Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM)®, Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P), and Certified Professional Coder (CPC"). She has been an American College of Chest Physicians Allied member.
She studied nursing at UT El Paso with a minor in psychology, and graduated with a BSN degree.
"This program helped me tremendously in my profession because I understand both the clinical and office sides of the practice."
She took a very in-depth nine month course in supervisory management and even has a certification as a Human Developmentalist.
When asked what she thinks is the key to running an efficient office, she said that they do a lot of checking beforehand.
"I think that the most important job that keeps your practice flowing is the front desk. If you get everything you need up front, then the claims come back paid. This is the first quarter that I've been able to sit down and really analyze things. There was a time that I was the biller and the coder. I created a clean billing system, but I had to hire more people.
She stresses the importance of keeping verification current and collecting deductibles up front to increase cash flow and to avoid having to chase patients for payment.
Judy also believes that staying current with the latest rules keeps their practice in line. She keeps herself on track by reading the CMS site, Pediatrics Online, and Code-it Right.
"McVey Associates used to send me reading materials, where I got a lot of info. And I have a network of people that send me tidbits and resources, especially pertinent to pediatrics."
Her staff attends one to two seminars a year, mainly those that teach skills for our medical secretaries, coding/insurance specialist, specialty coding in pediatrics.
"It helps us learn how to code better for our practice. I go to two or three seminars a year to stay abreast of changes, and keep up with the latest techniques and trends."
She says her staff works very hard and thinks she probably asks more of them than other offices might. For example, she says most offices don't do verifications but it is required in their office so that their claims are sent out clean the first time. "We have some great incentives that help contribute to an efficient and fun workplace. Sometimes we block the schedule until nine and make a surprise breakfast for our employees. We serve them in appreciation of them serving us. We try to do something like that about once every other month. Our office is open 36 a week and we offer four hours of bonus pay for our employees who are present all week long. They can finish work at noon on Friday. It is a good incentive that results in very low absenteeism."
Other incentives include providing a Christmas bonus and a day off to get holiday shopping done.
"We often hear other physicians complain that they can't keep good employees. We are fortunate to have a very low turnover rate."
Judy tries to stay engaged in her profession for about 60 hours a week and keeps an open door policy.
"I try to lead by example. To me, there's no such thing as a dumb question. I try to coach my staff to stand on their own so they would know what to do if I weren't there. My staff is very open minded. They let me know that I stepped out of line and we have a good enough rapport with them to sit down, teach, train and delegate. I try to spend at least eight hours of training with each employee. I think no matter where we go we can never stop learning."