by Cari A. Greenwood, RHIA, CCS, CPC, CICA
Healthcare delivery is not a static enterprise. The development of new procedures and the discovery of new diseases requires the introduction of new codes and sometimes new coding guidelines. The regulatory environment changes in significant and minor ways every year. Our complex reimbursement system, auditors and the interests of payers they represent, create a competitive environment for precious reimbursement dollars.
Because of the complexity in billing for healthcare services, organizations depend on the intellect, skill, and knowledge of their coders to ensure the coding upon which reimbursement is based is accurate, complete, and defensible. A coding credential offers assurance to an employer that an individual coder has the necessary skills to do the work. However, from the perspective of a coder’s career, obtaining a credential is a starting point not a final destination.
Once a coder has earned a mastery-level coding credential (CCS, CCS-P, CIC, COC, CPC), a door has opened to a whole world of career advancement possibilities for those who are committed to continual study and improvement through the process of career-long learning.
If you are like most coders I know, you love the chance to learn something new and add to your store of coding knowledge. Learning about new procedures and advances in medicine are a normal part of your coding routine and as a coder you always want to know how to code the next big thing correctly. And while the release of the annual coding updates creates a certain level of anxiety because it takes time to ensure that you know what the changes are, what they really mean, and how to apply them, they are also like a gift we receive. We can’t wait to open ‘em up, take them for a spin, and come to understand the changes well enough to explain them to others. As coders, being on top of change is our job.
As you advance in your career, the depth and breadth of knowledge you have acquired is the crucial skill you offer to your organization. After all, someone will need to:
- Spear-head your organization’s approach to coding a significant challenge such as COVID-19 or a new service area.
- Audit the work of other coders to ensure it is correct and identify areas for necessary coder training.
- Lead the internal training and consensus building necessary to keep all coding staff on the same page.
- Train providers on new documentation requirements.
- Seek clarification from Coding Clinic on challenging coding questions.
- Answer denial letters and effectively defend the organization’s coding decisions.
This someone, a coder, maybe you, with these deep and broad skills, will be a key asset to their organization, ensuring this critical coding component of the revenue cycle is working optimally. As a key asset, your career will be challenging and fascinating, maybe not without frustration, but essential to the success and financial viability of your organization.
So, while coding credentials are a necessary step in advancing your coding career and you should be proud of your accomplishment, don’t let them be your end goal. There is always more to learn in coding and making the effort to be a career-long learner can be just the thing to lead you down many exciting career paths.
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About the Author
Cari A. Greenwood, RHIA, CCS, CPC, CICA
Cari Greenwood is an Education Specialist with Libman Education responsible for developing courses that engage the adult learner consistent with the demands of coders, auditors, and CDI professionals at organizations nationwide.
With more than 17 years of experience in health information management (HIM), Cari is a well-rounded HIM professional who holds RHIA and CCS credentials from AHIMA, a CPC credential from AAPC, and is an AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer and an HFMA-Certified Inpatient Coding Auditor. Through her 11 plus years as a coding educator, Cari has gathered insight and information derived from her experience working with individual professionals and teams as they pursue advanced HIM training.
Cari’s HIM expertise combined with her passion for teaching is the foundation for her career as an author and presenter specializing in coding and auditing education. As Cari has stated: “The challenge facing anyone working with data and code sets is that it requires regular study to stay current with the evolutions in healthcare and able to accurately and efficiently do the work required of an HIM professional. A strong foundation of core skills and knowledge is the beginning, not the totality of an HIM education, there is always more to learn.”