Helping a Provider Market

We had an interesting thread on our forum this past week regarding a medical billing service that was asked by a new provider to help them find patients for their new practice. Sounds innocent enough but as Linda Walker pointed out, we need to look deeper as this is a very tricky scenario.

Anti kickback statutes can be violated by the medical billing service if they help the provider market their services. The law says that splitting fees from any referrals from a non-provider is strictly prohibited. For more information on these laws you can “google” federal anti-kickback laws or federal Stark regulations.

So what about sending reminders to a provider’s patients who have not been in for awhile. Is it alright for a billing service to offer this service? If the results of a billing service sending reminder notices to a patient is that the patients make appointments and come in then the billing service is then making money off the services provided by the doctor thus violating the anti-kickback laws.

I guess the next question is are these laws enforced when they seem so unfair? Unfortunately the answer is yes. It is very easy to find many examples of lawsuits involving such charges on the web. So it seems to me that it is just not worth taking the chance even though you would like to see your providers prosper. So how can you help?

My first question when I read the post was is it ok to just suggest marketing techniques to them that others have used. You are not actually helping them or participating with the marketing. It would be so easy to just say why don’t you try display ads, or press releases. Seems harmless, but if the suggestion you make ends up resulting in referrals, then technically you have broken the anti-kickback law. Personally I don’t want to take any chances.

I guess the only thing we as billing services can do to help a provider who is trying to drum up business is to refer them to a marketing firm. It might even be a good idea to find a local one that you like the work of. You don’t want to be partnered with them in any way, or else you will be benefiting. But you can get to know them and if you like how they operate, refer to them. It is important that you understand the anti-kickback law so you aren’t caught in something that can get you into trouble. Ignorance is not a defense.

Marketing With a Newsletter

A newsletter can be a great marketing tool for a medical billing service. Microsoft Publisher offers an easy way to build a great looking newsletter. Build your newsletter around current topics and problems that are happening in the provider’s offices. Include a section on your services and what you have to offer. Try to cover several different topics to make it interesting enough that it will be read.

Look at the hot topics of the day. Obama Healthcare is a big one. If you have an opinion about how this new healthcare program will affect a doctor’s office, write about it. Medicare is changing their timely filing limit. This is certainly going to affect medical offices and some providers may have no knowledge of the upcoming changes and be very grateful to hear about them. You may have a billing issue with a certain insurance company that a provider might like to know about.

Make sure you add a section about your services and why this provider would benefit from using your services. Let them know about your experience and your specialties. If you are a new medical billing service just starting out, tell them about your experience in the medical billing field. Hopefully you do have some experience. You may want to add statistics regarding how expensive it is to submit claims from the provider’s office or how you can save them money by hiring your service.

Put on your creative hat and think about what else the doctor or staff might find interesting enough to want to show the rest of the people in the office. You can make an offer of a free consultation or an offer to come into the office to talk on a subject you wrote about in the newsletter. Target a specific field to make it the most effective and send the newsletters out to all the providers you can find in that field. One month later you may want to write a new newsletter and send it to the same offices. This will help the offices get more familiar with you. Always follow up with a phone call to see if they have any interest in setting up an appointment. Keep track of who you sent newsletters to and what the response was. And good luck with your marketing efforts.

Contract Book Available

We just released our newest book “Write a Kick Butt Contract for Your Medical Billing Service”. If you don’t have a good contract with your providers you need this book. It contains 82 pages of information on how to write a contract for your medical billing service that will protect you and your business. We give examples of everything you want to make sure you cover in your contract along with a whole section on how to price your services. We also cover compliance plans and E & O insurance. A poorly written contract can cost you thousands of dollars down the road so protect yourself now by writing a contract that will cover your needs. Here is more information on writing a contract for your medical billing service.