It’s one of the joys and logistical challenges of treating children: they come with siblings! Unlike any other branch of medicine, pediatricians are often faced with the need to treat whole families – sometimes during one visit. For these and many other sibling-related circumstances, pediatricians need tools to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, whether they be a new patient, new caregiver, or handling several changes at once. Here, we cover the practices and tools your practice should be using to make sure your practice runs smoothly for families of any number.
Billing for Siblings: from Surprise Visits to Multi-household Families
Whether your practice is firm in requiring an appointment for every patient or you’ve been known to see more than one sibling in a single appointment slot when asked, billing for siblings can get complex. Here are some situations your practice might be familiar with:
Services for a Sibling During an Appointment
Sometimes, a parent may come in with one child for an illness or well visit and ask the provider for a look at a sibling (or two) as well. Some tips for covering these surprise visits include preparation for coding and billing, administrative, and operational tasks.
First, always bill for services rendered -- surprise visits are still important sections of a physician’s working hours and revenue, especially when you consider time lost in the day’s scheduled appointments.
Simple admin tasks can help to prevent or at least anticipate surprise visits. Administrative and front desk staff can inquire about siblings during the call to schedule the initial appointment, for example: “We’ll see Alex at 2pm today for a sore throat. Does his sister Amy have any symptoms you’d like the doctor to check?”
Practices who already host walk-in hours may benefit from scheduling families with siblings close to this period, to allow your staff to accommodate the extra work. Have a family who consistently brings a two-for-one sibling special? Staff may benefit from posting a flag or alert for the front desk and/or triage nurse to be aware that the same sibling needs may occur regularly.
Your office can also elect to customize procedures for surprise visits, making them an expected part of your daily operations. For example, you may accept surprise visits only if the sibling is sick, you may choose to charge an additional fee, or you may choose not to accept surprise visits at all, requiring all patients to schedule an appointment. The best choice is one that works for your schedule and for your patients, but in any case, be sure to communicate clearly and consistently so that families know what to expect.
Billing for Multi-household Families
From step-siblings, half-siblings, to de facto brothers and sisters, family billing makes sense for a pediatrician’s office. Billing for families is easier when your EHR is pediatric-specific. In PCC EHR, you can view a patients’ siblings from their chart. You can also change demographic information so that it’s always clear who to bill, even if kids and parents live in different households, or the custodian of a child isn’t the guarantor of the account. Learn more about how you can bill for families with this video from PCC Learn.
Pediatric billing often looks a bit different and billers often come up with unique questions. State Medicaid? Sibling billing? Specific codes not being accepted? If you or a biller you know could benefit from bouncing ideas off of other billing experts, be sure to visit our monthly Billing Drop-Ins.
Clinical Care for Siblings
Another perspective on clinical care unique to pediatricians is that you care for families as well as individuals. While much of your guidance may be directed at parents or patients, in many cases, the care of a sibling is as important as care of the patient themselves.
New siblings are a cause for celebration in most families, but for children set to become older siblings for the first time, it’s also a time of transition. Your practice can offer valuable advice on age-appropriate language and making sure an older sibling has quality time with parents, so that they understand they’re still safe and cared for with the addition of a new family member.
Your practice may opt to connect families with parent groups, or host groups or classes at the practice online or in person. There are lots of supportive resources available on Healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics, from managing older siblings while breastfeeding to sibling rivalry.
Making Room for More: Scheduling Families
How does your practice schedule for siblings? Whether you simply stack visits for siblings in 5 to 15 minute blocks for well visits or you’re more likely to see one sibling this week and the other the next, scheduling for families can be complicated, but it should be a top priority at your practice to save time for parents and for your staff.
Using PCC EHR, you can schedule for multiple appointments with additional siblings prompted automatically when you open the Schedule Multiple Appointments window. This makes it much easier to schedule siblings for one visit.
The advantages of scheduling for the whole family at once are many.
- Scheduling for a set of siblings allows mom or dad to make a single trip out of the house and minimize lost school or work time, leading to happier customer satisfaction
- Kids may find immunizations or examinations easier if their sibling got through theirs, making clinical work smoother
- Seeing a set of siblings is an efficient use of clinical time
- Seeing sets of siblings can prevent return visits for multiple sick children, and with the right preparation, can also keep the whole family up to date on preventative care and immunization schedules
When you work in pediatrics, you’re an expert in the care of whole families. Taking a new perspective on sibling care can help your practice grow in the clinical and operational ways to help every member of your patients’ family thrive. Whether your families are nervous new parents of one infant or old parenting pros with a big family, to give them the latest that your practice offers, from family scheduling to your new flu clinic, you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively.