Heather Van Buskirk
Mayo Clinic Labs @ Work
Thousands of people in hundreds of different roles work at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Mayo Clinic Labs @Work offers a glimpse behind the scenes into this busy reference laboratory, featuring staff from throughout the organization talking about what they do and why they do it.
I’ve been at Mayo Clinic for 13 years, and I’ve been in the Business Office for six years. My role is a client account representative. I’m in charge of monitoring all the referral testing accounts for Mayo Clinic Laboratories that are located in the western part of the country, as well as our international clients. I also monitor the COVID-19 testing accounts that we have in Minnesota.
Heather Van Buskirk
Basically, I make sure that clients are paying on time, or problem-solving with them to help make that happen. I’ve been doing this for three years. Prior to that, I was working in insurance billing.
Primarily, I make sure our Mayo Clinic Laboratories’ clients are paying their invoices in a timely manner. I monitor aging reports and payments, and if I see something falling behind, I contact them to see what’s going on. All in all, I have about 750 accounts (not counting those related to COVID testing). Thankfully, a majority of them are current in their payments. But there are times when clients don’t follow up on invoices or don’t pay their bills. That’s where the problem-solving comes into play. Often when I contact people, it’s just an oversight, and a reminder is all it takes. But sometimes it takes more than that. Fortunately, our billing is now all online, and I can see which clients are looking at their invoices and which ones are not, and that can help point me in the right direction. It takes some detective work, but I can usually track things down.
Working with clients to get their accounts current is important for patient care. Because, unfortunately, if they get too far in arrears, we do have to close the account. That, of course, affects providers and patients. Nobody wants that, and as you can imagine, that action can be extremely upsetting for all involved. But we can only go so long when clients are behind in their payments. We work hard to make that a very rare occurrence. Mayo Clinic gives a lot of grace, and we never close an account without diligently working with a client first. We do whatever we can to keep those accounts open, so our services remain available to providers and their patients, and they can keep sending their patients’ testing to us.
When I tell people I work in what is usually known as “collections,” most say they would never want my job. But it’s actually pretty rewarding. For the most part, clients are cooperative. They don’t want to be behind on payments; they want to work with me to find a solution. And it can be interesting to do the work needed to track down the right person to talk with, especially in larger organizations, so we can make things happen and get the bills paid. Sometimes, it’s just a lack of communication or a glitch in a system, and those people are none the wiser that a bill hasn’t been paid. When I get to them, and they understand what’s happened, it’s often not a problem. Although it may sound a little odd, this is a job I really enjoy. I enjoy problem-solving; I enjoy tracking things down; and I enjoy seeing the bills get paid.
The clients that ignore me, the ones that argue with me or make excuses, those are tough. You have to have a bit of a backbone to do what I do. I get pushback, and occasionally I get yelled at, but I try not to let that get in my way. I try to keep going until I get to the bottom of the problem and find a solution. But I’m not always successful, and we do have to close accounts. That’s hard.
At the end of the day, getting the payments in the door feels really good. Sometimes it can be months and months of painstaking work to make that happen. I also work a lot with our Mayo Clinic Labs sales staff, domestic and abroad, as well as other teams in our office, and collaborate with them when questions come up about various billing issues. If needed, I triage requests to the right team to get answers. It’s rewarding to be able to work together to get the clients the resolutions they need, to get them in a good place and keep them there. The Mayo Clinic Laboratories Business Office is really a collaborative team that has many moving parts that work together and gets a lot done every day, and I’m very glad to be a part of this office.
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