This public health manager turned family doc explains why students and residents in primary care must learn about billing and coding and what he is doing to help.
By Raymond Tsai, M.D.
For three years before I applied to medical school, I worked in post-Katrina New Orleans
helping to rebuild school-based health centers. One of the main challenges, however, was how to create a sustainable safety net for at-risk youth to whom we were hoping to provide much needed health services – key word being “sustainable.” All too often, there isn't funding to carry out primary care’s mission of improving the health of communities and underserved populations. At the time, I was a public health manager, and I often felt frustrated at physicians who couldn't optimize their coding and billing. Not only were they leaving money on the table for the much-needed services they were providing, but they also made my job of trying to advocate for them near impossible. One of the avenues we tried to pursue was state funds to support the school-based health centers
, but without proper coding, we never had accurate data to show exactly the needs we were addressing. In addition, when we asked state legislators for increased funding, we were easily countered with, "But you don't use the money we're giving you now through Medicaid
..." The only thing I could do was stare back like a greedy kid who asks for seconds before I’ve finished what’s already on my plate.