March 01, 2006
5 Minutes with
BC:How did you get to be an Office Manager for a Plastic Surgeon's office? JT: I started at the entry level in billing in a medical laboratory and worked really hard to learn as much as I could in as many positions as I could. I put in many hours overtime to gain the skills and knowledge in the different specialties to be able to now run a very successful Plastic Surgeons office.
BC:What is it about Plastic Surgery that is different to any other specialty that you've worked for previously? JT: With every other specialty I have worked for, the patient usually picks the Doctor based on their plan or particular medical condition. With Plastic Surgery, the procedures are elective and the patients choose to come to you. As with other practices the way that you treat each patient will determine the success of the Doctor's practice, but it seems to be more pertinent with Plastic Surgery.
BC: What do you like the most about what you do? JT: The people. I meet so many interesting and diverse people. I might have a patient who is a dancer in one of the shows here, the next may be an owner of a large company and then it's a mother of 3. When you follow a patient through their surgery, you develop a relationship as you are sharing such a major experience with them. It's like a cycle - you see them before surgery (happy and excited), then just after surgery (recovering and sore) and then when they're fully recovered (happy and excited again!). The patients really rely upon our team to help them get through every phase of their surgery.
BC: And the least? JT: Billing insurances and their disappointing reimbursements.
BC: Are Plastic Surgery patients easier to deal with in regards to billing and collections? JT: Yes and no - The majority of patients that are a having a cosmetic procedure done have to pay prior to surgery being performed. So there's no billing or collections required. On the hand if the Doctor has seen a patient while taking a call at the hospital it creates a new situation. I don't get to see the patient and have to rely upon on others supplying me with the correct information (like demographics and insurance information etc) or alternatively the patient is a self pay and I will have to send bills and chase them up then.
BC: What are the challenges in billing insurance companies for Plastic Surgery? JT: Getting authorizations for medical procedures. As in any specialty documentation is so important. In our practice, we need to demonstrate medical necessity to the utmost degree! We have to get letters from the patient's PCP and other treating physicians to show the history of the problem. These letters also need to outline previous treatments that have been attempted (and ultimately failed) and that the procedure is necessary for their health. Pictures (past and present) documenting all stages of the problem are also helpful.
BC: What kind of marketing do you do for the practice? JT: Radio advertising is the main focus for us. We find name recognition is very important. In addition, since a lot of our business is generated by patient referrals, we like to give a complimentary aesthetic procedure to all of our patients as a thank you and as a positive reinforcement so that when someone they know wants cosmetic surgery they will automatically think of us.
BC: If you weren't doing this, what do you think that you would be doing? JT: I'd still be in the medical field doing billing somewhere. That's where I started 15 years ago and it's still something that I enjoy.
BC: On a lighter note, what's the strangest request that you've ever had? JT: We had a female patient involved in a car accident where the airbags ruptured one of her breast implants. She wanted the Doctor to perform an emergency breast augmentation on the injured breast, as she didn't want her partner of 4 years to find out that her breasts weren't real!
BC: Finally, what are the "perks" about working for a Plastic Surgeon? JT: Free surgery! I haven't had any yet, but I will never say never! It's nice to know that it's there when I need it though. But our practice also has a medical aesthetician and there's always microdermabrasion, botox and facials until then.
Jennifer Telesh is the Office Manager for Brian J. Parker, M.D., a Cosmetic and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon based in Las Vegas, NV.
She has worked in the medical field for 15 years in various positions for a Medical Laboratory, Cardiologist and Orthopedic surgeon before running a plastic surgeons office.