The other day I went to a pediatric coding seminar sponsored by one of the hospitals in the area. As I was sitting down, two physicians were chatting next to me. One of the docs said to the other, “…we come to these things all the time. This is probably our 10th year.” The other physician – apparently attending his first coding seminar – said, “Wow! Every year? Doesn’t it become monotonous hearing the same thing year after year?” The other physician explained that the seminar contained new materials and that every year they learn news things. “In fact,” said the doctor, “my office manager and head nurse come with me every year” suggesting the seminar was that important.
I came to the realization that there is such a need to educate doctors about medical coding. If anything, the naive doctor should have at least known that ICD-9 and CPT codes are revised and changed every year. That reason alone is enough to justify going to a coding class at least once a year.
Every year, I attend at least one coding seminar. And every year I come back with lots of information and tips. But it seems increasingly more difficult to schedule time and sit down with my doctors to relay what I had learned. Sometimes, I got a few minutes, but usually, we never got around to it.
Last year, I decided to do it different. We closed the office for a day and I sent both of my doctors to a coding seminar. We had concerns about closing the office, like loss of productivity or if a patient got really sick. Despite those concerns, (the doctors remained on-call for emergencies of course) I thought a single day at a coding seminar would be worth it.
And it was. The doctors enjoyed the seminar immensely. They learned a great deal. They returned motivated and with a new outlook on how they diagnosed and coded for their services; which increased revenue in just a few weeks.
A few months later, I ran several reports and found new CPT codes the doctors started using as a result of attending the seminar. To our surprise, the codes not only had been reimbursed, but the codes had generated enough revenue to cover the expense of sending the docs to the seminar.
If closing is not an option, you can set up a lunch – or an after hours sessions – and make arrangements for a coding specialist to visit the office. Another idea is alternating doctors if you have coverage issues.
Either way managers ought to find ways for doctors to attend coding seminars. They add a lot of value and ultimately, revenue to the practice. I understand that most physicians are overwhelmed as it is with our current medical system. But coding is their livelihood. If doctors do not understand the intricacies of medical coding, they are in essence leaving money on the table. As a practice manager, we should try to do more to keep our doctors informed about changes in CPT codes, billing issues and new coding tips.