5 Minutes with... Jackie Thelian

BC Advantage (BCA): Tell us about your background and how you got started in the industry.
Jackie Thelian (JK):
In 1995 I began as a receptionist for my children's pediatrician. This was prior to the implementation of managed care. It didn't take me long to realize that in order to do my job I would need to know medical terminology, billing and coding. With the help of text books and the physician I worked with I learned medical terminology and anatomy. My billing experience was on the job training and expanded along with the growth of the HMOs. Soon after I became certified in coding.

BCA: What was the motivation behind starting your own business?
Starting my own business was something that just evolved. While working in the pediatrician's office I began helping out in a GI practice. Working in both practices resulted in many referrals from other physicians. With a big push and support from my husband, Medco Consultants was created.

BCA: What are the positives about being self-employed?
Being self-employed requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline but it also holds many rewards. You have the opportunity to be flexible with your hours and how you plan your day. Best of all you are responsible to yourself and are paid in direct proportion to the work you produce.

BCA: Any negatives?
It can become overwhelming if you are not able to manage your time. Otherwise, in my opinion there are no negatives.

BCA: You offer many services to prospective clients - how do you and your staff stay on top of the challenges of change in the industry?
Communication and Education are essential in meeting the daily challenges. We hold brief weekly staff meetings. This allows us to review and discuss current projects as well as providing a forum to share information which allows us to communicate any updates and changes. Reading industry publications and attending seminars are also a great way to learn and network.

BCA: What certifications do you hold and what has having them done for you?
My Certified Professional Coder (CPC) allowed me to gain experience by working with other professionals such as physicians, attorneys, and accountants. My Certified Professional Coder -Instructor (CPC-I) allowed me to develop curriculum and educate physicians and ancillary providers of service. But most of all this credential allowed me the opportunity to teach other students to become certified. Over the years many of my students have either excelled in their careers, or have gone on to start their own billing or consulting companies. To me there is nothing more rewarding then being able to pass on what I have learned so others can grow and become successful in their careers.
BCA: In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about the medical billing and coding industry?
There are two misconceptions. One, many people don't understand the difference between a coder and a biller. And two, that anyone can take a two day course and become a medical coder or biller. Medical coding and/or billing like any other profession requires you to work your way up. Success in the field requires both knowledge and experience.

BCA: What do you most enjoy about your career?
The ability to educate both the medical community and individuals who want to learn the profession.

BCA: When you hold a presentation in front of a class, what's the best way to get the topic across to them so that they understand?
By clinical examples. In my opinion it is always best to learn by example then to be mesmerized by power point slides. It is best to learn by doing. Teaching from clinical examples allows me to instruct in a workshop format.

BCA: What advice would you give someone who has just finished a billing and coding course?
Get experience and be open minded about how to gain that experience. It is best to take any position in the medical field such as receptionist even if it is not billing. You will find that almost even aspect of the medical practice will affect billing. For example: When you are working at the front desk the intake of patient information directly impacts the billing. Entering in the wrong insurance information will result in a claim denial.

BCA: What is your passion in life?
My passion in life is to be able to pass on what I have learned. I have found by doing this, I have been able to help many physicians navigate through the maze of confusion surrounding many of the coding and billing rules and regulations, and help individuals excel in their career goals.

BCA: Anything you would like to add?
Think out of the box. Too often once someone becomes certified they head straight for the physician practices and hospitals. There are many other professionals in need of certified coders and billers. Accountants will often hire coders and billers to check the status of physicians who are selling or buying practices. Healthcare attorneys are looking for good coders and billers to help with physicians who are in the mist of being audited by the insurance carriers or for part of a compliance program.

I also would tell you to give back. I have been blessed with many extraordinary people who have mentored me during my career. In life you will meet many people who are willing to take the time to help you and the best form of repayment is to do the same and help others who also want to learn. I would like to leave you with the thought that anyone can achieve any dream or goal if they believe in themselves and have the desire to do so.