better billing today

BBT Ep. 20: Austin McDonough

October 19, 202323 min read

In this episode we're joined by Advanced MD Consultant Austin McDonough.

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Hey, welcome to the Better Billing Today podcast. I'm your host Adam Welchel with Spark Billing Services. We're talking to owners and operators, office managers of small clinics and practices. We're trying to streamline their business, improve their cash flow, and improve the patient financial experience.

We've been talking to professionals, doctors medical billers, medical coders. And on this episode, we're talking to Austin McDonough, a consultant who helps practices and clinics install software. That helps them achieve everything I just said better patient financial experience better operations streamlined workflows Improved cash flow the software that we're talking about today is advanced MD It is my personal favorite.

We use this software on every practice that we've helped with medical billing and they have such a great platform for practices. And so I'm talking to Austin today on the Better Billing Today podcast to hear more about this particular software, what's the future for this application and how it can help your practice accomplish its goals, grow and expand and help more people and help more patients.

So let's go over to that episode right now!

And on this episode, we're diving deep into the advanced MD software, our favorite medical billing software, our favorite platform as a billing company. And I have an expert user consultant and advisor on the software, advanced MD Austin McDonough. Welcome to the show.

Hey, thanks so much for having me Adam. I appreciate it.

Yeah. So what's your story with Advanced MD? You've been using it a long time. It's one of your favorite platforms to use. And what do you, just tell us what you love about it and what changing in the medical billing industry and why this platform has been your choice for medical billing software.

Yeah, for sure. So to give you a little history on what I do, I've been consulting for about three years. And when I say consulting, that's working with practices, it's working with billing services, and it's also making sure that we can get our billing services and our practices together.

And that's, what I've noticed over these past few years is the, a major shift in the industry more and more so is that more and more providers are waking up to the idea that they hate billing and they want someone to do that for them. And so that's where I've gotten to what I do.

And what I like about advanced and be specifically with that is that it is a platform that allows for Connecting with the practices and helps with the practices workflow. It also connects in with our billing services software so that they're able to do this, what they do best while the practice is doing their, they do best.

It's all cloud based. It has tools and some really great features on it that allow it to help the biller so the biller can do their job the best they can. And also the practices it gets paid. So it's a really great kind of all in one platform. And like I said, cloud based is nice because you could be in Florida and I could be in Utah and you could be doing my billing for me without having to ever send or fax or, any of those, the nitty nitpicky things, right?

Absolutely. And the software being cloud based, you can actually enhance security, whereas security seems to be a huge pain point for some practices. How do I make sure you safely get my data and that we're we're HIPAA compliant. And so overall, the demand for sophisticated, billing software that, that, integrates with the EHR that demand is growing, after COVID and everybody working remotely from home or just not in the office what have you seen as far as the adoption of advanced MD or similar platforms?

We've seen a huge growth and where do you think that's gonna, where do you think the future of medical billing is going?

Yeah, great question. And it's been fun, right? Over these past three years, it's been really fun watching these patterns, right? One thing that is true is insurance companies are You know, getting more and more strict with how they're doing what they're doing.

And, the truth is, as medical billing, we know the insurance companies have to pay. So they make us jump through as many loops as possible before they say, yeah, we will pay you, but you have to jump through all of these. And that's just getting more and more complex. Especially in these last few years, there has been a huge explosion in it.

Electronic health records, right? EHR systems. There are tons of EHR systems out there, and every platform works a little differently for that practice, right? One practice may like a software that is geared to theirs, right? For example, if they are an anesthesiologist and they really like an anesthesiology Centered EHR system, they're going to want to stick with that.

And so there's been this huge rise and explosion in all the different kinds of platforms and providers really find those things they like within those each within each of those different platforms. And where, once again, plugging advanced MD one of the cool things about advanced MD is that we've noticed this and we do what are, we are, what's called an open API, right?

So we are doing, whatever the software is that the provider. is wanting to use, we're able to do, or, advanced MD is able to build that API so that our billing services can use the software they're comfortable with in getting that billing done. While at the same time, practices are able to do what they want to do on their EHR platform.

And I see more and more of this becoming the future of. The medical field within technology is more and more diversity of platforms. And then more and more of these API connections.

Yeah, I would say that's a unique thing that advanced MD has brought to the table is that open API does allow more integrations than some of the traditional practice managers, where it's really just a self contained unit.

And MD. If a clinic is, holding onto their EHR platform or their billing platform, what are some common integrations that you've seen that Advanced MD is able to support?

I think if, and as a consultant, what, one of the things I look at when I'm visiting with practices is their software, when we're looking at workflow, we're looking at how to make that practice run more efficiently is the software where the bottleneck is.

And so there may be times in a practice where as much as they love the software, perhaps maybe it's server based. And so it just can't operate the way that software needs to nowadays, or perhaps it's just not conducive to the growth or the goals of that practice. So sometimes that is. Part of it is recommending, different software.

Advanced MD is one of those softwares that is configurable. And so a practice can build out those templates within the clinical side to fit their workflow. But once again, in the case that they really love the software they're working with, and in the case that it's not the bottleneck, we don't want to necessarily slow their practices growth down by trying to make switches.

You see a lot of those API connections between advanced MD, between, more and more softwares are starting to be open to the idea of API connections. There are a few different ways of sharing data securely online, right? There are shared drives, that can be encrypted where a practice can upload what they're doing on their side into the shared drive that the billing service.

Keeps the billing service able to access that and then input the information into the billing side. Or like I said, those APIs are a really cool bridge way where whatever the practice is doing on their side automatically will flow into what the billing service needs to do.

Yeah. So like you said, it is very diverse.

It, or at least it supports. Wide array of options. And like I said, it's very flexible. I know that we've at spark billing, we've really enjoyed using advanced MD as a platform for billing. And everything seems to just work really well together from the practice management, EHR billing collections, patient pay the reconciliation process.

We've been able to just get done very quickly. And our users seem very happy with it. Because you're you're probably an advanced user of advanced MD where do you see some of the next opportunities? Do you know what the company's planning and do you have anything that you've heard that is public that is being the next step in that the roadmap of their software.

Yeah. So to talk a little bit about that, one of the things that I do enjoy about advanced MD further is that users have the opportunity to share their ideas through the system, right? We have advanced MD provides a tab there called the share ideas tab, and it looks, it works like a subreddit.

Where people can throw their ideas on there as other people see those, they can either upvote them, downvote them. Yep. And so what, that's something I've always loved about Advanced Indy is they stay on the, they stay on the forefront with their updates and what they're doing based on what the people need.

And that's one of the reasons it stayed on the forefront of, the software world within healthcare for the 20 plus years that it's been around is because they listened to the ideas of their. Their practices and of their clients. And they like to make innovations based on those. They don't share a ton of information with me directly in regards to roadmaps, but I know just in the tech world in general, and something that is a big hot topic on the advanced MD forefront is AI and the relation that AI will play within the billing world.

There are so many different pieces of the billing process of. Clinical node input of scheduling patients that is, or I guess can be automated and furthermore can be driven by an AI. And I know that's something that we have some of our advanced MD has some of its 3rd party partners that are working on now is how they can innovate in that regard Advanced MD, they work with groups of people that they provide sandboxes to that can experiment and play. Advanced MD has some of their their third party groups that they work with, their third party development groups that are actually working on these AI tools now.

There has been a lot of talk about AI being used in medical billing and coding. We've seen, we've covered articles on this show about AI interpreting notes and character optical readers misinterpreting initials for prescriptions and like some of the scary things that are not working with AI. It's going to be interesting to see what positive things come out from AI.

And, being able to streamline what is what I would consider a very odd and broken system. When we got into this business, it was to help practices, help patients, we're helping the helper. And when, the more you get into coding and billing, you realize that you're just, putting so many human hours on.

Efficient system where the insurance companies are going to make sure they put you through as many hoops as they can. Like you said and thankfully, when you have a good software with a good clearing house you can you can reduce your denials. You can sometimes educate the insurance companies on what they should be looking for and get those those claims pushed through and a software that supports you and with them.

Clear data with action items with follow up with, good record keeping and integrations easy to reconcile definitely makes it more fun, to, to be in this business when the software is not the headache, just the insurance company is, but I loved it. I can't wait to see what's going to happen with AI and how it's going to optimize the workflow and maybe even help the patient or our staff or the provider even more.

Do you have anything specific that you can, that you think AI will be applied to, like which part of the, which module would get the most attention first?

That's a great question. Yeah. And you'd mentioned the clinical notes and those. Test runs that they're doing now with AI and scanning through clinical notes and that's where it gets really tricky.

I think where, just where you mentioned, where there are a lot of hours spent in the human hours spent in just the inputting and the processing and the tracking and the reporting, I could see that being definitely where there is a huge opportunity for AI is submitting those claims, following up on those claims.

And then being able to run those reports to be able to track where those claims are. And I can see that being where the biggest opportunity lies for advanced MDs clients is within their billing software. They have an area called the Claim Center. The Claim Center has automation tools. It has a scrubber.

And it's actually the scrubber that is powered and generated by the Optum, with the Optum group, the OptumScrub claim scrubber, which is the same scrubber that's used by UnitedHealthcare. And so there's these tools as the insurance companies are trying to become more and more complex. The software, just as you mentioned, is.

Answering those calls of complexity with their own tools, and I could see that being an area where, as opposed to a human putting those claims in walking in them through a scrubber, which is already an automation tool and then submitting them to. The clearinghouse and then tracking the progress through that clearinghouse, I could see that being a really cool opportunity from where a I could definitely benefit the billing services on their side and then also, of course, also the practices.

That sounds like a great use of AI and a lot of times we're trying to educate the provider or the office manager that better software and an outsourced service provider like spark really does translate to dollars and cents. It does translate into fewer errors fewer denials, faster cashflow, sometimes just some peace of mind that that somebody who really knows your business and the software, the most you have a subject matter expert at your fingertips.

Do you have any, not to put you on the spot like this, but do you have any stories or at least any memorable something you've seen where you saw that, a right, the right medical billing company and the right software really transformed a practice?

Oh, absolutely. And that's not putting me on the spot at all because that's literally what I see every day.

As a consultant, I'm visiting with practices who are either startups that have no idea where to even start. Or their practice has been going for some time and their systems are completely messed up. And they, all they're saying is, Hey, I'm seeing patients. I feel like we're billing for them, but I have no money in my account.

So what's going on here? That's where I love working with billing services like Spark Billing, because you guys know from the get go, how to set up a practice. One startups can be set up. For success right from the get go and practices that are already established can also have that positive influx when suddenly things are fixed and things are working a big one that I noticed.

And in fact, this is actually, if it's okay, if this is okay, the example that I can think of right off the bat is actually with spark billing one of the clients that we got with they are, they were utilizing advanced and be for their billing and their office manager was doing that for them.

And the office manager said, Hey, I wear a hundred hats, which is not uncommon for office managers. And she said, I don't get a chance to focus on any of my other hats because I spend so much time billing. And what was a great experience was to get her introduced here to Spark Billing, to you guys, and to watch the transformation in that practice.

She was able to focus on those other aspects of her practice, right? Sometimes people think, oh If my office manager is not doing my billing, what are they doing? But there's so many things a billing, an office manager can do, in regards to running marketing campaigns building and strengthening referral relationships, and even just running the day to day.

It within the office smoother, providing a better patient experience. So we've seen that with the practice is spark billing has taken over for their billing and has been doing that for them. The office manager has loved that. To be able to actually focus in on running the office as a whole, as opposed to just focusing in on the billing.

Yeah. We just had Rebecca on the show maybe a couple of weeks ago and she was having, she had so many good things to say about Advanced MD, about us and definitely grateful to hear the feedback from a user who fits, what you just said.

If when the software for even a startup can set a set a clinic on the right path from the get go, we had Dr. Matt. He talked about the importance of having the right people in the right spot. And I know that's a common phrase we might hear in business from Jim Collins, right people in the right seats.

Having the right, plan at the beginning, putting the right software or the systems in place, and then having the right people on those systems makes all the difference for growth, for peace of mind, for just satisfaction at work. And then also just knowing that We talked to, this common problem is there's few people in your zip code that may know what needs to happen and how it needs to happen in your practice.

And so by opening up and going online and being cloud based, you really open up your talent pool for. Who can help your business? You're not bound by that zip code and who's available. And so you're not poaching from other businesses or clinics or practices. You're not trying to recruit, train and hire, develop somebody in house.

And if you are dependent on a single person. That's a single source of failure in your practice that, becomes a risk because maybe you start tolerating either behavior or activities that you don't want to, or maybe they're not a good culture fit, but you depend on them for that cash flow and you chain yourself to that.

that person or those people in your office. And by, installing a cloud based solution, we've seen, clients, get the help they need in places that are not in the office. And so they're able to be a little bit more fluid and more selective and have, build the practice of their dreams using the people that they want to work with.

And, they're not Trapped, that's a word that we've heard. It's like I'm trapped with, my options feel limited. And and not just in medical billing, but in a lot of cloud based software that, and we work with multiple platforms of billing. And one of them is medical billing.

And by providing cloud based solutions and providing cloud based talent we've seen solutions. Just cultural changes in our clients offices, or at least that's what we've heard. I'm sure you've had similar experiences or stories where, you know. Their whole office changes when something comes in that works and then now they have options.

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And then coming back to that same example, your staff and and that's a common worry for practice when I come in and say, Hey, here are your inefficiencies. Here's how we could clean that up. A common worry for a lot of providers and owners of these practices.

Hey, I don't want to let people go. And, I let them know, Hey, there's a lot that you can do with your personnel that doesn't have to be just what was traditionally considered like the roles in an office for a practice. And just like you said, so to be able to outsource such a big and important part of a practice, which of course is cash flow to someone who knows exactly what they're doing and to get them in touch with the right person.

And the beauty of cloud base is. Once again, I'm in Utah, but if my practice needed your help and you were the best biller for the job in Florida, there's nothing stopping that from happening to where a positive cashflow for a practice equals, a healthier practice. More money can be put into the practice to then expand, and one of the most fulfilling things about healthcare and you alluded, you, you mentioned this earlier on is a healthy practice is helping more people.

And so it's a very rewarding role to be able to help practices and building companies to be able to optimize what they're doing to then increase the profitability and the quality of these practices because when the practice is thriving, it means it's able to help more people.

Couple more questions. What turns the light on for somebody who's hesitant, but they pull the trigger? Is it just going out on faith or do they see something that's no, this makes sense. And I would be limiting my, my, my ability to help others and I would be limiting my practice if I didn't make this move.

Yes, and it's always great to be able to find positive examples to encourage that change and that move. Unfortunately, it's usually negative examples, right? I'll visit with a practice who was server based and there was a flood in their office, right?

A pipe broke, destroyed the server. The big thing that I always... In regards to cloud based software, the big push that I always say is the reliability and the safety of your patient's information and your practices data is. Is so much safer when it's on the cloud, because whatever happens to your practice, it's always going to be stored somewhere safe where you can retrieve it from wherever you're at.

So in regards to just the convenience of being able to be more mobile, being able to access your data from more places. Aside from that, it's so much safer, right? Because what's to stop? Natural disasters or horrible things to happen from your already very expensive server that you've put into your office.

It just is a much safer and much more reliable method. Now it's definitely the evolution of data storage is. And the direction that everything is moving, not just medical, but it's great to see that medical has now caught on to cloud base and the beauty of cloud based is to now be doing that.

Yeah. And one impressive feature or one impressive event I saw was when the state of Florida mandated that all Florida based practices keep their data in Florida, or at least they don't, they can't take it offshore. Meaning if you, if we called advanced MD and we said, Hey we have these three practices in Florida.

We need to make sure that they're, their patient health information is not stored in a server. Even if it's nearshore in London or England or but that it can't be stored anywhere but the U. S. The feedback I got was Advanced NMD is on it and that we can really assign, where we want to secure and store.

The information and so that was definitely something that we had didn't have a lot of notice, in June, this law was going to take effect July 1st. I was surprised at how quickly that came out, but moving patient health information, stateside and having that control and being cloud based, you get both security and flexibility.

Absolutely. And the cloud solution, it just is so much safer, more flexible in where you're able to keep it. And access it right there are providers who like to travel. There are people who like to, we'll have multiple practices and now they're not having. They're not confined to one.

You had mentioned the zip code and I love that. That analogy, right? They're not, they're not stuck in this zip code where their server is. They're able to open more practices, they're able to expand, they're able to, once again, at the root of all of healthcare is helping people. They're able to help more people and become more accessible.

I love when you mentioned the government June by July, you're gonna have to do this. It's just so government regulation, right? By the way, this is happening when? Oh, next week. A couple weeks from now. Good luck. Oh, okay. Thanks for, yeah, thanks for telling us. Yeah.

Oh, man. If anybody's on the fence about either switching software, whether they're cloud based or server based if you had to pick one reason, security, flexibility, growth, compliance talent pool, what are, what's the one thing that you think is the biggest motivator in choosing advanced MD or just online medical billing software, cloud based?

Yeah, so that I would say, and where I have personally seen the most positive movement with this is the idea of growth, right? The idea of flexibility and growth. They're not going to be bottlenecked by, in their growth Processed by their software, and that would be the most frustrating thing, right?

Because there's so many when you're ramping a practice up, when you're growing a bit, any business, really, that is so important to make sure that ramp is going smoothly for the success of the practice. But you don't want something that is built into every aspect of the practice because everyone uses the software, right?

Everybody's in the software in the practice and to have a software that is the. Part of your practice that is confining you from being able to achieve whatever goals you have for your practice. So I would say growth is one of the biggest ones we run into, at my consulting group is, people want to grow and more often than not, they're finding that.

Their software is the part that's holding them back from that growth.

Well said Austin, thank you so much for your time. I really enjoyed having you on the Better Billing Today podcast. We've been talking about advanced MD cloud based billing solutions. And in this series that we're doing.

Is we're focusing on practices and owners and operators of small practices, the office managers and trying to empower them with the tools, the resources and the guidance to either help grow their practice or streamline their existing practice and make a better billing experience for. The provider, the staff member and the patient.

So I certainly appreciate your time. You've contributed a lot to that conversation. Is there anything else you'd like to say before we sign off?

No, it was a pleasure being on here with Adam. Thank you so much for your time today.

Thanks Austin. Have a great day.

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