by Angela Lima, BS, CCS, CDIP, COC, CIC, AAPC-Approved Instructor

There is always more to learn in coding and it is not just annual updates (though getting a handle on what is changing is part of every coder’s job). In my experience, the best coders also seek to expand their own knowledge of medicine and current procedures and how these are captured in documentation and coding.

If you are the leader of a group of coders, you have a sense of your coders’ abilities. Some coders love detailed large records and the challenge of turning a complicated diagnostic and procedural story into accurate and complete codes. If they are not now inpatient coders, they would be your candidates for training in that direction.

Other coders thrive on simpler records that they can blast through. They are driven by a desire to quickly figure out the record and move on. These are your production coders, able to keep your DNFB within an acceptable range.

If you are responsible for a team of coders, there is a balance to be struck between the coder’s individual interests or ambitions and the needs of the organization. Sometimes they are similar and sometimes they are not. Let me suggest three ways in which to bring alignment to the training process.

1. Ask your coders. As part of their yearly review ask your coders to describe what they like about their current job and what they want to do in the future. Use the opportunity to identify the fit between the additional skills that your staff is actually interested in mastering and the quality or productivity challenges your facility may be struggling with. When your staff sees that you are interested in their goals and want to help them to reach them, your coders may be more inclined to go that extra step and do the work that needs to be done. Loyalty works best when it is a two-way street between your coding staff and the institution.

2. Assess your coders. Detailed and challenging assessments should be part of your yearly check-in with your coders. Assessments can form the basis for individual evaluation and improvement plans. Assessments can be eye-opening for both you and the employee. You both need to know where the coder’s knowledge is strong and where training could make a big difference.

3. Give your coders training and see how they do. Do they embrace the opportunity to expand their knowledge? Do they work on complex topics until they are mastered? Do you see them applying their knowledge in their daily work? Whether you choose individual topics for them to achieve, or give them unlimited access to training, your coders will tell you a lot about themselves by how they apply themselves to studies.

Think about the best coders you have had the opportunity to work with. Training gives you the ability to raise up your current coders in the way in which you would have them go.


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