Up-Skill Your Coding Team

by Susan Cohen, RHIA, CDIP, CCS

Have you been in a situation where it took a long time to find the right person with the right skill set to hire or advance your coding team? It has always been a challenge but never more so than now in the midst of COVID. The challenge we faced was that we were running out of work for our outpatient coders. Our response was to create an in-house learning program to up-skill our coding team for the work we have.

We made a choice to invest in hiring inexperienced Certified Coding Specialists looking for a learning opportunity as well as cross-training our outpatient coders to learn new inpatient work. The investment may just increase employee job satisfaction and retention while growing a talented coding team.

These are the steps we took to up-skill our coding team:

Career Ladder
We developed a career ladder to allow for advancement as skill levels grow.

Progressive Learning with Skill Application
We developed a layered, progressive learning approach focusing on one body system at a time.

  • Start by reviewing the basics for a solid foundation
  • Provide opportunity to build skills by starting with low length of stay cases and progressing to more complex cases.
  • Allow for “see one do one” where the trainee observes how to find information in the record and correctly code the case then takes a similar case and tries their hand at coding it
  • Allow time for trainees to recode cases already coded by an experienced person and then discuss and learn from discrepancies. The outcome benefits not only the trainee but also the trainer, who learns where there are opportunities to address coding consistency.
  • Upon becoming proficient in coding a specific body system, the trainee can be partially productive while learning the next body system.

We carved out time during the week for dedicated learning and application. The trainees were being asked to commit themselves to learning a challenging new skill; our organization demonstrated a seriousness of purpose by our investment in their success. Everyone had skin in the game.

We provided a variety of resources to support our trainees as they advance their learning.

  • An internal library of references including tip sheets and scenario-based question and answer documents stored in a central location along with hospital-specific coding guidelines.
  • External online resources to support accelerated learning by providing an interactive self-paced tool. (We found some of our trainees benefited from the full Libman Education library while others needed specialty-specific modules to accelerate learning and build coder’s skill level.)

This approach to up-skill our coding team has proven to be successful for our organization. Trainees have an opportunity to climb the career ladder while confidently coding complex cases. Outpatient coders have developed proficiency in inpatient specialty-specific coding.

Up-skilling was the solution we chose to enable continuous learning while building a strong and versatile coding team to manage the peaks and valleys.


About the Author
Susan, RHIA, CDIP, CCS, has over 25 years of health information management experience with concentrations in acute care hospital health information management, acute care and long-term care coding and reimbursement, DRG and APC analysis, documentation improvement and compliance services.  Susan  has held previous positions as director of Health Information Management, Coding and Compliance in large teaching and non-teaching medical centers. Susan received her B.S. in Health Information Management from Temple University. She is a Certified Documentation Improvement Practitioner, and Certified Coding Specialist.


Cross-training Solutions: Inpatient and Outpatient
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Accelerated Outpatient Coder Training

Disclaimer: This article is written for educational purposes only. Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure its accuracy and completeness. It is the responsibility of the reader to refer to the definitions, descriptions, conventions, and guidelines specific to each coding classification, as well as relevant laws and regulations when selecting and reporting medical codes.

About the Author

Libman Education
Libman Education is recognized by individual HIM professionals and their employers as the trusted resource for training on medical record coding. Over 12,000 individuals enroll annually in Libman Education’s WebinarPlus™ self-paced online courses written by leading industry experts. Our focus is on coding from beginner to advanced (ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, CPT), as well as coding credential prep (both AHIMA and AAPC), and other topics where in-depth specialized knowledge of relevant coding systems and their application is essential (Auditing, CDI, HCCs, IR/CV, LTAC, SNF, Home Health, IRF, and Pediatrics).

2 thoughts on “Up-Skill Your Coding Team

  1. Stacy Yauger - February 24, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    That is awesome how you “build up” the coders and their skills. I think all companies can learn from this example.

  2. Elizabeth Connolly CPC, CCC - March 5, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    This is a very impressive and forward-thinking solution to an issue that most outpatient coding departments must have experienced during the pandemic. It’s a great example for all Coding department leaders to consider and possibly apply to other coding areas as well. Congratulations!