Financing Better Neonatal Care with Bankers Healthcare Group
Bankers Healthcare Group
Children who are born early can spend months in the hospital. Seventeen or 18 weeks can feel like a lifetime for parents. There are good days and bad; progress and setbacks. Families get to know all of us: doctors, nurses, and even the housekeepers.
As a neonatologist, I treat newborn infants who experience difficulties in the first 28 days of their lives. I also work with premature babies who are born as early as 23 weeks into a pregnancy.
I began my medical journey when I studied medicine in Ghana, where I also completed my foreign student medical exams. I immigrated to the United States in 1995 and did my residency in pediatrics. I thought I would open an office and work with kids, but I soon got bored. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life dealing with bloody noses and skinned knees. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to practice medicine on the front lines in crisis situations.
The Challenge of Helping Newborns and Premature Babies
I discovered my true calling during a three-year pediatrics fellowship at Cook County Hospital, here in Chicago. Over the course of our training, we were required to rotate in and out of various hospital units to learn every aspect of our specialty.
I spent a lot of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I was thrilled every time I rotated into the NICU because it was challenging and rewarding work. I dealt with neonates who were struggling for their lives, as well as their parents. Together, we experienced triumph and tragedy. We cried tears of joy and tears of sorrow.
As doctors, we do our best. Neonatal medicine has made many advances, but we can’t save every child. Sometimes letting go is the kindest thing we can do. That part never gets easy, but then there are the children we do help. There’s nothing like seeing a baby who was born three months premature blossom into a healthy two year old.
Delivering Better Neonatal Care
I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years, and am our family’s sole breadwinner. My husband understood how important my career was and became a stay-at-home dad. He raised our two sons. Now that they’re both in college, he’s doing a lot of volunteering. He’s especially busy with our church and diocese. I’m also very proud that one of our sons is in medical school.
I still live in the Greater Chicago Area and continue to practice medicine here. Here in Chicago, I work with a small pediatric group. We provide hospital coverage and do pediatric rounds for babies. We also operate an outpatient clinic. It’s a team effort. For example, if one of my colleagues is unavailable, I’ll take their patient. However, we all bill independently, and that can get complicated.
Recently, my private practice needed some upgrades. I wanted to move to paperless billing. Managing and mailing out paper-based invoices was not only time consuming, it was also inefficient. It takes a lot longer to get paid through the mail.
I also needed to update my medical charts and records. In Wisconsin, I was using Epic, an electronic medical record (EMR) application to manage patient records. It was so much easier to use than a clipboard. With paper charts, I had to write everything out by hand, scan the documents, and then file away the physical and electronic copies. There were piles of paper everywhere and managing the scanned charts was a nightmare.
But there’s more than convenience to Epic. HIPAA—the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—requires all doctors to move to electronic records to protect patient privacy. To continue practicing medicine outside a hospital, I had a legal obligation to upgrade to software like Epic, and that costs money.
Finding the Right Partner to Finance My Office Upgrades
As I was moving to electronic billing and records, I also decided to move into a better office space. This meant spending a lot of money I didn’t have. After all, I’m saving for my retirement and putting two boys through college. I knew I needed a loan and sought out a trusted financial partner.
I discovered (BHG) through one of their flyers. I got a card in the mail saying what BHG could offer. It had an expiry date, and I think I called them two days before the offer ended. I talked it over with my husband. I explained all the technical upgrades I needed, and how I wanted to make life easier for myself, and for the people who work for me.
I had three employees at the time: a woman who did my billing and two medical record coders. The latter two are vital to my practice. They analyze patients’ charts and convert procedures and diagnoses to alphanumeric codes according to a national classification system. This information is then used to generate insurance claims so I can get paid.
Medical record coding can be tedious. In fact, one of my coders quit before I switched to electronic records. There was too much paper. I streamlined the process with Epic, and can now get by with a single coder. However, I can pay the remaining coder more. The same goes for my billing lady. There’s more money for her.
Now, the paper BHG sent out said I could borrow up to $500,000. I didn’t need that much. After crunching the numbers, I figured I needed $100,000 for the office upgrades and the new software. At this point, I realized that I should also borrow some money to cover payroll and expenses in the event of an emergency. I added another $40,000 to my calculations.
I had dealt with banks in the past, and walked away unhappy. I was skeptical when I called up BHG. I’d seen some commercials on TV from companies that offer easy loans to everyday folks, but I couldn’t remember any from Bankers Healthcare Group.
Dealing with BHG was a pleasure. I talked with two or three of their people on the phone. They put me in touch with the right department and started processing the loan.
It was a seamless process. I was quickly approved for $140,000. The paperwork was very straightforward. I filled out some electronic forms on my computer. I also printed out some PDFs, signed them, and scanned them with my smartphone. I had never imagined doing something like that with the camera on my phone.
BHG’s people were helpful and informative. Everything was clearly explained. I knew exactly how the loan was structured and how the repayment schedule worked. It didn’t feel like I was handing over my credit score and begging a bank for money.
BHG treated me like a businessperson. I was improving my medical practice and found the perfect financial partner. It was all very professional.
Transforming My Practice with BHG
I was so happy when everything started to come together. My staff and I went to Epic’s headquarters in Wisconsin for training. Once we were up and running I was able to see how much more I could do with Epic in my own practice.
I now have access to data that can help me improve the level of care I provide. How many babies were brought to my practice last year? How were they treated? How are they faring, and how did I follow up?
I can track all types of statistical and demographic information. This helps me improve patient outcomes and find ways to better allocate human, financial, and medical resources.
There have been other major improvements. Reimbursements are coming in a lot faster. My staff is also more productive and less stressed. Streamlining my operations has made everything efficient. My investment paid off in a big way.
The extra $40,000 I borrowed also came in handy. Back in April I was really in a bind. The State of Illinois wasn’t releasing money to pay for Medicaid patients. There was an eight-month reimbursement backlog. It really put a strain on my bottom line. I was grateful for the reserve fund I had set up. It helped me cover my payroll in a pinch.
Looking Forward Instead of Backward
Thanks to BHG, the last two years of my medical career have been the most rewarding. Upgrading my private practice means I can provide a better working environment for my staff, and the best care for my patients. Streamlining the management of my business operations also means I can devote more time and energy to working in NCIUs.
Two decades in, I still find joy in helping newborns and premature babies who are struggling in the earliest days of their lives. Seeing these tiny, vulnerable souls overcome their many health challenges continues to inspire me.
There is nothing like sharing the healing journey with these babies’ parents, and every other healthcare professional in the ward. But we also have to deal with the pain of loss. Sometimes there’s little or nothing we can do. That part never gets easy.
I am proud that I am still providing for my own family. I plan to retire someday, but I’m healthy and want to continue to work hard for as long as I can. I’ll slow down some day, and eventually retire. For now, I’m helping my sons through college and giving my husband a chance to shine as a volunteer in our community.
BHG has helped me fund a better future for my practice and my patients, without dipping into my retirement savings or my sons’ education fund. At a time when many of my colleagues are looking back at their careers, I’m looking forward.