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Return phone calls, remain calm, and invest in good billing software

Vol. 2, No. 10 / October 2003

Whether you’ve just completed your residency or have been in practice for years, attention to small details can make or break a practice.

The following five tips can help you start—or improve upon—a successful practice:

  1. Spell out your billing procedures in writing. List specific fees (eg, consultation fee, 45-minute therapy visit, 15- to 20-minute medical evaluation) and payment schedules.
  2. Obtain billing software, especially if you employ minimal office help. You’ll need to generate insurance-based invoices on paper and to episodically (weekly to monthly) print out patient bills in batches, depending on your practice’s size and caseload.
  3. Return phone calls. This may seem basic, but patients expect their doctors to get back to them the same day.
  4. Be nice to referral sources and to your staff. Niceness is a remarkably powerful tool that can help you forge valuable professional relationships and assist you clinically.
  5. Provide consultation reports—typewritten and timely—to referral sources. Many doctors keep typed records of all office encounters. Thoroughly documenting the first meeting with a patient is particularly important to establish rapport with referral sources and to refresh your memory of the case when the patient reappears after a hiatus. These reports also help justify consultation fees.

Dr. Vuckovic is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, and is medical director of the Pavilion at McLean Hospital, a residential psychiatric evaluation program.

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