Health Information Management

Tip of the Week: Use these strategies to integrate coders

APCs Insider, April 13, 2007

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Getting new inpatient coders to become productive members of your department is a challenge. "It's not cookie-cutter," says Kathy M. Johnson, RHIA, director of coding services for Chicago-based Care Communications, Inc., an HIM consulting firm. "You need to customize [orientation and training] to the individual coder."

Customize, train, and acclimate your way to success with the following tips:

1. Allocate enough time/resources to planning and assessment. Departments often don't take the time to customize a program to the facility's needs and the coder's strengths and weaknesses. Doing a thorough assessment allows you to take full advantage of the new coder's strengths and enables you to match learning needs with your expectations for the new coder's role, Johnson says.

2. Make a pact. Put the coder's training plan in writing so both sides are clear on the expectations, resources, and time involved, Johnson suggests. "Outline a training program with them so they know what's expected and what they'll receive in return."

3. Provide formal feedback. You'll probably provide plenty of informal training and feedback to the new employee; back this up with periodic formal assessments. "Objective reviews at certain points in time lend objectivity to the process and ensure the compliance of the work," Johnson says. "They're also good benchmarks for the success of your investment."

4. Realize the effect of a new coder on your existing coders. If you expect your experienced coders to mentor, monitor, or work with a new coder, appreciate how it will affect their productivity, Johnson says. "You have to think about how you support that effort with additional resources or flexible scheduling," she adds.

(Source: Briefings on Coding Compliance Strategies, March 2007).

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