Traditionally, coding updates occurred twice a year: ICD updates in late fall and CPT updates in early spring. Training was conducted on site per person or by an in-house trainer designated for online training. This article provides best practice guidance on conducting coder education in a virtual environment. Key questions to consider include:
- How do you manage training and education now that guidance and mandates are evolving and changing quickly?
- How do you provide training more frequently, for yearly ICD, CPT, and payer-specific guidelines?
- How do you evaluate training?
Last year fast-tracked the need for virtual connection with staff across all industries. Prior to COVID-19, staff attended on-site meetings to review educational training and workflow updates. The pandemic forced health information management (HIM) departments to seek alternate means to connect with a now fully remote staff. Technology advances have allowed for a number of different options to communicate new information and review regular day-to-day business for healthcare and hospital systems across the country. In addition to communicating yearly updates such as CPT and ICD-10-CM/PCS changes, we must train HIM staff on workflow and software changes. Though technology enables instant connection, the challenge is how to manage staff and education amid all available training options and technology platforms.
Manage Educational Resources
Education, audit, and management staff must clearly communicate the technology platform to be used, along with the date, duration, and purpose of the training or meeting. With a variety of technology options available, including Microsoft Teams, WebEx, Zoom, and Google Classroom, organizations should conduct research and select the platform that will best accommodate their staff. Are there any limitations such as meeting size and time requirements? What capabilities are absolutely necessary?
Record your training
The option to record meetings or training sessions offers many benefits, including the ability to:
- Accommodate different schedules and time zones.
- Review material to reinforce learning as needed.
- Ensure all team members receive the same information in the same way, which is important when training new staff or implementing a workflow or software update.
In the coding area, we often advise new coders to use dual monitors to view the recording on one screen and the electronic health record (EHR) or coding platform on the other. The coders can then walk systematically with the trainer through the applications and workflows, pausing and rewinding as needed. This process can relieve pressure for new employees, as they no longer have to capture every detail within 60 to 90 minutes. Access to recordings can also be a time- and cost-saver for your training team.
Disseminate and store training materials
Once a training session is scheduled, conducted, and recorded, the next decision is how to disseminate and store training materials for the team. All training resources should be stored on a centralized and secure platform. Trainings that are recorded in a live EHR system must be securely stored and password protected to ensure protected health information (PHI) is kept HIPAA-compliant. Providing a copy of slides, tip sheets, or screenshots can assist employees who learn best via written materials that can be printed and reviewed.
To verify employee understanding of new materials, workflows, or software changes, trainers can use a post-test. Post-tests are evaluations that are often required at the end of educational sessions in order to show understanding. Typically, coders must receive a passing score to receive the CEU credit. This method has been used with new CPT or ICD-10-CM/PCS yearly updates and most recently with the new E&M 2021 updates. A post-test is also an effective way to verify attendance and receive feedback on training. All virtual meetings and trainings should include a means for attendees to ask questions—chat box in a live training session, an email contact, or a phone number. It may be beneficial to schedule a follow-up session to discuss questions or compile the questions into a single document for your team.
A live training session with the entire team is not always necessary. Managers, educators, and trainers can record a meeting and distribute information to the team via email or a centralized platform. This eliminates the challenges of coordinating schedules and time zones, and enables easy dissemination of training content.
Make the Most of Technology
Using technology to conduct educational sessions and share new information has been imperative in our new work-from-home environment. It is important that all team members receive the same information in a timely manner via streamlined processes with centralized storage of training and education materials. Effective communication and education while working in a remote environment are critical to continued teamwork. Take advantage of all that technology has to offer until we can meet again face to face.
Sarah Humbert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the vice president of coding operations and an AHIMA-approved ICD-10 trainer at KIWI-TEK LLC.