How to Cross-train Your Coding Staff Now

by Lynn Kuehn, MS, RHIA, CCS-P, FAHIMA

Cross-training has always been a smart strategy to ensure adequate coverage for the ebbs and flows of the coding process. It is a particularly useful strategy dealing with the uncertainty of our current situation and anticipating post-COVID-19 realities.

If you find your organization in need of inpatient coders, my suggestion is to take your best and brightest outpatient coders and train them for inpatient coding.

If you find your organization short-handed on the outpatient side, coders from the Pro Fee setting may be a place to start. Their knowledge of provider documentation and CPT coding form a strong basis to build upon.

In either case, identify the coders who you believe have the best chance of success: the ones who like a challenge, who work a coding problem until they know the answer, who embrace change and rise to the occasion. If you have a pre-employment inpatient or outpatient coding test, use that to identify your candidates for cross-training. (If you don’t have a test available, Libman Education has assessments you can purchase to help with this.)

Use your existing coders to train their new colleagues on your own records. Supplement this mentoring with structured coder training that refreshes on basic principles, advances their knowledge through challenging coursework, and presents complex concepts tailored to the coding challenges your organization faces.

It has been said “Never let a crisis go to waste.” As we (hopefully) approach the post-COVID-19 world we must face the fact that our organizations may be permanently and fundamentally changed. Keep your staff engaged with their profession and with you as their employer. Have them self-assess what they would like to learn and match this to what your organization may need in the future. Help them to use their time wisely now to gain the skills they will need and your organization will depend upon.

A better trained coding staff provides greater flexibility for your organization to deal with potential staff shortages and other unforeseen changes. For your coders, those who work to maintain and advance their knowledge, up-to-date and enhanced coding skills mean more job security, now and in the future.

Be ready for whatever change may come with a well-trained staff, ready to meet your organizational needs.

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About the Author

Lynn Kuehn is president of Kuehn Consulting, LLC, and a nationally recognized authority on ICD-10-PCS coding. Lynn was elected to the AHIMA Board of Directors, served as faculty for the original ICD-10 “Train-the-Trainers” program, and authored or co-authored several of AHIMA’s most popular books including ICD-10-PCS: An Applied Approach, recognized as the “go-to” resource for learning and mastering ICD-10-PCS. As a Subject Matter Expert with Libman Education, Lynn’s unique and engaging teaching methods as well as her leadership on the importance of accuracy and efficiency in coding is recognized by clients and students throughout the country.

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