The coding experts

A federal audit inspires an Illinois physician to launch a coding business.

By Tyler Chin — Posted April 11, 2005

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Making sidelines pay

Business Pitch

Doctors who branched out beyond running their practice tell why they did it, how they did it, and what you should know before you do it.
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Name: David E. Stern, MD.

Specialty: Urgent care medicine.

Location: Rockford, Ill.

Business: Practice Velocity. The firm sells charting and coding services.

Annual revenue: He and two partners are breaking even after two years.

Why he started the business: In 1999, the government was about to audit his urgent care practice. Realizing that "I had no idea whether we were coding accurately or not," he became a certified professional coder. (The audit found some inaccuracies, which the clinic changed to get back into compliance, but it received no penalties.)

Dr. Stern lectured about coding at an annual conference of urgent care physicians, which led to consulting work and training classes. But physicians -- and Dr. Stern -- got frustrated with the limits of what you could learn in one day. "That's when the idea came about: If I take what I know about coding and put that into a computer and the doctor just gives us [the information we need], we can output the code and be able to code the charts for them essentially. So instead of training them how to code, I trained them how to document visits."

Doctors use paper templates to document visits, scanning and transmitting the templates to Practice Velocity. The company's computer system analyzes the information and codes the services they performed.

Why he keeps practicing: "I need to test our new templates."

Words of wisdom: "Be ready to invest a lot more money than you expect to invest when you start up. That's No. 1. No. 2, [building a business] always takes longer than you think it will."

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