Tricks of the Trade

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted December 01, 2001
By Tom Dinome

For a complete list of this year's SBC 50 businesses, see 'The SBC 50,' December 2001 SBC.

Steven Zuckerman, M.D.
Employees: 5
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Principal: Steven Zuckerman
Business: Neurology practice
Tech: Uses handheld device to fill prescriptions, transmit billing codes, and check patient's insurance coverage.
URL: None

Making his hospital rounds, carrying a handheld computer, and doing card tricks, Steven Zuckerman might not convey the image of a typical physician. The 48-year-old neurologist, who was invited to perform as a strolling magician at this year's Presidential inauguration, uses magic to entertain patients. He uses his handheld for everything else.

Zuckerman has been in practice for 15 years and has operated his own 5-employee practice in Baton Rouge, La., for the past year. His first experience with handhelds came when he tried out a system for entering prescriptions into a Palm Pilot and sending them to pharmacies over the Web. 'Believe it or not, people say doctors have bad handwriting,' he says. 'It's a bad rap!' Whether the rap is true or not, electronic systems reduce prescription errors.

Currently, Zuckerman uses his handheld to stay connected to his back office while he's on rounds. The backbone of his system is a suite of online healthcare applications from Medtopia, which ties together human resources functions, payroll data, and employee schedules. Medtopia Mobile lets him use a handheld to tap into his patient data bank for records, and the system can even tell him the status of a patient's insurance coverage.

It also helps him get paid. When doctors see a patient, they need to report two numbers: a diagnostic code and a service code. That information then is sent to a third-party payer (HMO or insurance carrier, for example), and then doctors are sent their money. 'Doctors are notoriously disorganized,' Zuckerman says. 'They'll see a patient, write a note on a piece of paper, and whether or not their office gets to see what work they did is very hit and miss. With this system, when I see patients, I click their name off and a charge automatically gets put into my billing system.'

His 'charge capture' rate is now 100 percent (most practices hover around 70 percent). Using an application service provider has been an attractive alternative to other medical practice software, which can run more than $20,000. 'For a $200 monthly fee,' he says, 'I get everything the more expensive systems would give me plus a lot more.'

Zuckerman is also readily available to patients through e-mail, and directs them to medical Web sites that he's personally checked for credibility. What do patients think of their doctor's penchant for silicon? 'They love it,' Zuckerman says. 'They think it's very cool that the doctor is technologically savvy.'

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