TechniMed: An Entrepreneurial Leap Of Faith
Few people are willing to cash in retirement accounts they've built up over years and stake it all on a startup. But when the right combination of expertise, opportunity and hard work come together, those bets can pay off big.
Pamela Laity, CEO of medical billing and management company TechniMed
, is just such a success story. She and her husband Robert started the business in 2004. The firm provides medical billing services, accounts receivables management, practice management and consultation, and physician credentials.
Laity worked for a software company that produced medical billing software, and was consulting at medical practices where the billing was sometimes, to be frank, an enormous mess. She became known for helping struggling practices to find their financial footing, often by implementing systems that helped them collect the money they were owed.
"At some point I just thought I should do this on my own," Laity explains.
She and her husband took the plunge -- they cashed in their 401ks and savings, and launched TechniMed in a small warehouse.
"I look back and think, ‘what were we thinking'?" she says with a laugh. "We had kids at home still, but we just had a tremendous amount of faith. It was scary but it felt like the right thing to do -- we were excited."
The bet paid off. TechniMed has gone from managing a handful of small practices with 10 or less doctors to service more than 40 offices with as many as 150 doctors.
"We have a reputation for taking on the kind of practices that are not doing well and cleaning them up," Laity says.
As health insurance requirements get more complicated, there's a growing demand for TechniMed's services. Navigating the complex web of billing codes and insurance companies is not something doctors themselves are trained to understand, and office staff is responsible for so many other aspects of practice logistics that billing can take a back seat.
"The office manager pays the bills and keeps the schedule, and some small practices don't even have an office manager. Just trying to do it all themselves doesn't work any more."
And managing the billing for a medical practice is only going to get more complicated, Laity says. In 2013, the US Department of Health and Human Services
is mandating an update of the current coding system, which will exponentially increase the number of codes billers must use. Add to that the expected impact of the Affordable Care Act coming in 2014, and that amounts to a lot of record keeping for doctors. Laity expects this will be a great boon for her business as clients seek to outsource the work.
"It's already had a huge impact on us in that we have to train all of our staff on how to do billing under those rules," says Laity. "We're seeing more and more clients because of it."
To that end, TechniMed has just moved from a small office in Sterling Heights to a 5,500-square-foot space in the Next Wave
business incubator in Troy. One feature of the facility is a multimedia center, which will be home to a monthly speaker series the company is launching for clients, providing them with tips and insights on running a successful medical practice.
Dr Howard Glazer, a family practice physician in Madison Heights, was one of TechniMed's first clients. He met Laity when she was helping his office with their billing while she prepared to launch TechniMed.
He says the relationship has worked well because it takes the expense of a billing staff out of his practice. He thinks TechniMed's model of charging their customers a percentage of the bills they collect helps them be more efficient and effective than an in-house billing department might be.
"When you have someone working with the incentive that their fee is higher the more they collect, versus someone who gets paid the same whether they collect one dollar or a thousand, they're going to do a better job," says Glazer.
Laity has hired many family members, and also takes pride in developing employees such as students fresh out of school or older workers. "We have auto workers who have retrained as medical coders," she says. "We're giving opportunity to people who would struggle in this economic climate to get a job -- we enjoy doing that."
TechniMed also has a strong commitment to community service, something Laity has done in her personal life, and is translating to her business. The company launched a program called Hour Investment, which grants employees an extra hour in their time-off bank for each hour they spend on the volunteer programs. And Laity makes sure she's right in there with her employees, doing the same work they do.
"It brings a different dimension of relationship into things," she says. "[Employees] see me differently when I'm there in my jeans and sweatshirt -- when they see you doing that they have a different perspective on you."
Amy Kuras is a Metro Detroit freelance writer and frequent contributor to Metromode. She writes about schools, parenting and a host of other topics
. Her previous article was Rust Belt Market