August 19, 2004

Midwest Medical Practice Management Inc.

by Bonnie Marx

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The medical malpractice insurance crisis robbed Carbondale of its only two neurosurgeons and the staff at Neurological Associates of Southern Illinois of their jobs.

But three of those employees, all professional medical coders, are rebounding -- with the help of the Small Business Incubator at Southern Illinois University Carbondale -- by creating their own corporation, Midwest Medical Practice Management Inc.

"The Small Business Development Center has helped in every way," Shull said. "From getting our business plan together, through financial counseling, by providing office space at a feasible rent. They're always stopping by to ask if they can do anything for us."Rose Cartwright, from Vergennes, Sue Endres of Du Quoin and Karen Shull of Johnston City initially were wary of the idea of starting a business. While they had a cumulative total of more than 20 years in the profession, starting their own business seemed risky.

The Small Business Development Center offers counseling at no charge and the program is open to anyone currently in business or interested in starting a business.

Enhancing economic development efforts in the region is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it reaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.

The incubator program, part of SIUC's Office of Economic and Regional Development, rents space to new and expanding businesses that need in-depth assistance, conference space and other services.

In a sunlit suite overlooking the fountain at SIUC's Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, the women are building their business that opened June 1. It's a one-stop shop for physicians, both new to the area and already established.

The business offers complete office set-ups, credentialing, billing and more that actually saves physicians money by using independent contractors instead of hiring in-house personnel.

Particularly significant is that all three are members of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), signifying their level of expertise for coding of physician services, procedures and diagnoses for insurance and Medicare purposes. Endres has found that "there are very few professional coders in Southern Illinois," even though there's a push at the state level to require AAPC certification.

With more than 38,000 members worldwide, the AAPC strives to elevate the standards of medical coding by providing ongoing education, certification, networking and recognition, according to information from its Web site.

The trio already works with several doctors and "there's a lot going on," according to Cartwright. They expect a surge in business when they begin advertising and word of the business gets out.

They've also found, at least for now, there's no such thing as a 40-hour week, but they are ready to "do whatever it takes" to make the venture a success.

They give high marks to the Carbondale community for supporting the new endeavor and are enthusiastic about their chances to make a success of the venture.

"The sky's the limit," said Endres, "on how big and how fast we grow."

To learn more about the SBDC, visit the Office of Economic and Regional Development's Web site at