Tune in to this monthly online coding column, facilitated by AHIMA’s coding experts, to learn about challenging areas and documentation opportunities for ICD-10-CM/PCS.
By Elena Miller, MPH, RHIA, CCS
AHIMA’s recently announced Vision for Transformation and 2019 Strategic Plan states: “we will begin to focus AHIMA’s resources on developing products and services that reflect our core strengths and offer the highest return for the Association and our members.” Coding is one of these areas of focus for the association, as AHIMA plans to continue to both support and strengthen coding-products and resources related to it.
As the coding profession has evolved tremendously, so too have the needs of coding professionals. Yes, basic ICD-10-CM/PCS education and training tools will always be needed for individuals entering the profession—and there is plenty of it available. However, experienced coders need education and training tools that will elevate their skill set to match the needs of employers. Today, coders need to be clinically savvy to make intelligent decisions about the documentation. This involves making decisions about the focus of treatment for accurate principal diagnosis assignment. This goes beyond understanding the guidelines. Coders need to understand the clinical scenario to apply the guideline appropriately. Coders need to understand when to query for clinical validation even when a diagnosis has been thoroughly documented. Coders are not being asked to be clinicians, but they must be active partners with clinical documentation improvement (CDI) professionals and physicians to ensure the patient’s clinical picture is accurately portrayed.
It is empowering that AHIMA continues to recognize coding as a core strength of the health information management profession. AHIMA takes into account input received from those of us on the “front lines” in the profession, as noted in the statement: “Member and certification holders’ input is vital to our transformation, and we want to hear from you…. Watch for announcements in AHIMA’s E-Alert for upcoming focus groups, forums, and surveys where you can participate” As the industry continues to grow and evolve, it is essential for coders to be both informed and engaged. This is an opportunity to participate, give input, and speak up about the needs of the profession.
In keeping with the need for the coders to be informed and active in 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website has a wealth of information. Coders can sign up for weekly (or more often, based on your preferences) Medicare Learning Network newsletters to keep abreast of various news and updates such as NCD changes. The newsletters will be delivered right to your inbox. CMS also offers calls and webcasts on various topics (not coding-specific) that AHIMA accepts for continuing education credits. This is an opportunity not only for free CEUs but to receive education on healthcare-related topics.
For those coders in the professional setting, all payers have subscriptions for newsletters and bulletins that can be delivered directly to your inbox. Please note, some of the payers will require that you submit your organization’s tax ID and National Provider Identifier to be enrolled.
Many coders are fortunate to work in facilities where they are kept abreast of updates by their coding leadership, though that is not always the case. Regardless, it is our duty to remain informed and up-to-date through continuing education and research—even if it means seeking that information ourselves. Just as AHIMA has announced an intention to focus on supporting and developing resources for coding, let’s all pledge to be an informed and active professional in 2019!