If you are considering having a serious career in medical coding, the first thing you need to do to gain credibility is to get certified. There are several different types of certifications for medical coders so make sure you know which one would be best for you. The certifications are split into two different levels: entry- level certifications and advanced certifications. Here are some of the most popular certifications:
Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
This is offered through AHIMA and is one of the most basic certifications that they offer. The program is designed to give medical coders a general understanding of coding principles. It will create coding competency in both hospitals and physician practices.
- High School Diploma
- 6 months of medical coding experience
- Completion of an AHIMA approved coding program
Your practice will experience revenue leakage starting the moment a patient schedules an appointment with you. Some of these leaks typically start out small but overtime they will make large dents within your practice. Below are some tips to help improve your rev cycle management system and prevent those leaks.
- Patient Information: Acquiring accurate patient information will help reduce claim rejections due to ineligibility, patient not found, or service not authorized. Implement a checklist at your practices registration office to help insure accuracy. The staff member registering a patient should verify the patient’s information, take a photocopy of the patient’s insurance card, and review the patient’s insurance (optimally, this would be done before the physician sees the patient in order to avoid performing services that are not covered).
E/M coding has become the most frequently billed physician service, and auditors are taking notice of its popularity. There is a fine line to walk when it comes to Medical coding. Frequent E/M coding errors occur when medical practices are either upcoding or undercoding. Upcoding increases the risk of audits. Coding too conservatively doesn’t protect your practice from audits, and it severely decreases your level of reimbursement. Here are some tips to help you stay on the straight and narrow:
- Sending out Claims Under the Wrong Provider: Popular medical coding errors occur when nurse practitioners and physician assistants report services improperly. Often times NP’s or PA’s will send out claims under the physician’s name and National Provider Identifier, but if the patient was treated solely by the NP or PA, the claim should be billed under the mid-level practitioner’s name and NPI.
Who Participates in Medical Coding?
Coding is a team effort, with the certified medical coder leading the way.
Medical coding starts with a patient making an appointment to see their physician. The receptionist makes the appointment – without the appointment the coding process would fail to start.
Physician or Healthcare Provider
Next, is the physician, or healthcare provider. They diagnose the patient based on their symptoms (complaints), and in some cases blood tests, x-rays, or any number of other test(s).
Certified Medical Coder
Then the medical record makes its way to the certified medical coder. The coder translates the written clinical documents into codes. This coding process allows the physician or healthcare provider to receive payment for the services they have provided to the patient.
The medical coding system originated in England during the 17th century. Statistical data was collected from a system called the London Bills of Mortality, and the data was organized into numerical codes. The codes were then used to estimate the most recurrent causes of death.
Fast-forward a few centuries… The statistical examination of the Mortality Rate (causes of death) was then organized into the “International List of Causes of Death.” Over the years, the World Health Organization (WHO) used the list increasingly to help in tracking the mortality rates and the international health developments.
The list was later developed into the International Classification of Diseases, which is now in it’s 10th edition, also known as the ICD-10-CM/PCS.
In 1977, the global medical community accepted the ICD system, which compelled the National Centers for Health Statistics (NCHS) to expand their reach to contain clinical information. In other words, the ICD system was extended to include cause of death and clinical diagnoses, such as injuries and illnesses.
For those familiar with the healthcare industry, right now you may be holding your breath as the much anticipated switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is only days away. Whether you work with physicians, in a third party billing company, insurance agency or see a future in the healthcare industry, this switch will inevitably effect the way your job is performed. This switch will even change the way one must prepare for a job in medical coding and the industry itself, from education and training, to benefits, work flexibility and market potential. Read on to find out why this is an exciting time to join the medical coding industry and how to land a job post ICD-10 implementation.
Industry Changes & What This Means For You
The switch to ICD-10 means that, unless granted a crossover or extension, all states will be required to process all medical billing and documentation in the new code which increased the volume of codes by 520% or from 13,000 used in ICD-9 to 68,000 total for ICD-10. The bright side is, for those considering a career in medical coding, the switch has many healthcare providers and medical billing companies searching for well-trained and certified coders proficient in ICD-10. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a shortage of more than 50,000 qualified Health Information Management and Health Information Technology Workers by 2015. Meaning that while some degrees and programs leave you to fend for yourself in competitive, oversaturated job markets, while gaining certification in ICD-10 will leave you with many potential prospects in a secure and growing market.
ICD-10 Training, Certification & Resources
Do you recall the year 1999, or as it became known "Y2K"? People were nervous, scared, and a little irrational with their fears towards the turn of the millennium. I have often reflected back on 1999 as I participate in conversations surrounding the October 1st ICD-10 deadline.
The fears that people have expressed have been, well...somewhat irrational. For the most part, healthcare professionals have created an ICD-10 readiness plan. The eBook "The Definitive Guide to ICD-10" has helped many nationwide develop and implement or even reinforce their current ICD-10 transition plan. The supplemental "12 step guide infographic" has attempted to break the plan down into bite size chunks for healthcare professionals. Most of the healthcare professionals we speak with today have a solid plan. Most have reconfigured their systems to support the new requirements. Their IT transition appears to be on point. Many organizations have either already certified their own coders in ICD-10 or they have taken steps to outsource their medical coding to companies like Aviacode who have access to thousands of certified ICD-10 coders. Most, if not all, have set aside budget to accommodate some of the “unknowns” as we approach the ICD-10 deadline. So, is there really any reason to reach for the panic button?
There has been a wealth of information available on the ICD-10 initiative. Nevertheless, many physicians still strongly believe that this is strictly a ‘coding’ issue. Hence, it will not affect them in anyway as they go about their daily routine, nor will they have to submit to any type of training in advance of the October 1, 2015 go-live date.
Most physicians seem to comprehend that the ICD-9 to the ICD-10 changeover may result in a loss of revenue if they do not personally ensure that their coders are correctly trained to use the new code sets. On the other hand, the physicians who do not fully comprehend the extensive effects of the ICD-10 implementation will be faced with a momentous revenue loss if they themselves are not sufficiently prepared.
While the ICD-10 moves us ahead from our current number of 14,000 diagnosis codes to a future number of 68,000 diagnosis codes, the capability of the coder to properly assign the new codes and use the new coding system relies profoundly on the physician's clinical documentation to finish the process.
It’s a great day for Aviacode – and the healthcare industry specifically as we all transition to ICD-10!
Today we announced the closing of a $16 million growth investment from Frontier Capital. We plan to use the funds to further develop and market both our network of certified medical coders and our SaaS-based platform to meet the growing demand for solutions that facilitate medical coding and auditing for physician groups, facilities and surgical centers.
This is especially beneficial for these entities as the October 1 deadline for transitioning to ICD-10 quickly approaches. ICD-10 includes more than 140,000 codes—19 times the number of codes in the outdated ICD-9. The new coding system reflects the latest medical knowledge, allows for more specificity in describing conditions and procedures, and is also a step toward the transition to quality and value-based reimbursement models.
Australia began their ICD-10 coding standard in 1999. Canada has been using ICD-10 nationwide since 2006. These countries have already been through the process of implementation with all of its problems and headaches. With the idea that, “Those who do no learn from history are doomed to repeat it” here are 6 things we can learn from the Australian and Canadian ICD-10 Implementation:
Australia took the time to meet with analysts, coders, and healthcare professionals to create educational materials. They utilized their resources and took the time to educate their coders on ICD-10. This process began 18 months before it was implemented, which reduced lag times and lead to normal coding production after 12-16 weeks on average.