March 25, 2014

Help Wanted: Will Work for HCPCS Codes

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“Like finding four-leaf clovers, the chances of hiring trained, credentialed, and experienced coders in 2014 are extremely poor,” wrote Torrey Barnhouse, the founder and president of TrustHCS, in his article that appeared in the March 18 edition of ICD10monitor e-news. “New approaches are needed to solve health information management’s (HIM’s) age-old problem: a lack of available skilled talent.”

 

Barnhouse reiterated that position on yesterday’s version of Talk-Ten Tuesday, expressing concern that the healthcare industry is “thousands of coders” shy of what will be necessary to fully support the transition to ICD-10 by the mandatory compliance date of Oct. 1, 2014.

Looking to an out-of-the-box approach, Barnhouse made the pitch that healthcare executives should consider medical transcriptionists (MTs). And he makes a compelling case, noting that “coding may be a good fit for MTs facing a bleak job forecast and fewer employment opportunities” while further pointing out that in comparing the professions, there are many similarities.

Consider an anecdotal example out of Helena, Mont., population 28,190, according to the last U.S. Census.

Enter 50-year-old Beverly Clark, a rebate specialist for Montana who works with physician-administered drugs in the state’s Medicaid program. Clark read the Barnhouse article and was compelled to reveal some personal history. Are you listening, Mr. Barnhouse?

“I am a certified coder of five years now and just read your article on coder shortages and I wanted to comment,” she wrote. “I spent most of my adult career as a cosmetologist/salon owner, and as I aged, benefits and retirement made me reexamine my career path. I enrolled in a program for displaced homeworkers as a medical office specialist, as I had some early life experience and interest in the medical field. I became very enthralled with medical coding and went on to take my exam.”

Noting the apparent lack of employment opportunities in Montana, Clark found that her lack of experience closed a lot of doors in this arena.

Working for the state, Clark says that at least she has experience with HCPCS codes – but a “true coding position,” as she describes the ideal job, eludes her still.

“I love “solving mysteries and finding answers” as you stated in the article and am a very avid learner,” Clark wrote. “And I feel that I would be a great asset to any medical practice. I also know quite a few certified coders in my same situation.”

So, reasoned Clark, “why not, especially at this time, take a chance on inexperienced coders? We don’t have habits to break and would be a great blank canvas, so to speak, to invest in.”

“I am not a veteran or a transcriptionist,” she added, “but I feel that there are many of us being overlooked. ICD-10 training is quite expensive, and I feel like I have already invested a substantial amount into my certification. And in this economy it is (difficult) for me to step out and invest more only to not be able to utilize the education.”

Laying things on the line, Clark says she would take on an apprenticeship opportunity “in a heartbeat, as long as I can make a living doing it.” Moreover, she would be prepared to take a pay cut, if, as she writes, “someone would give me a chance to do what I love and then increase my salary as I prove my capabilities.”

Clark also wondered about others in a similar situation.

“Maybe this is due to where I live, but I can’t help but wonder: How many more of us are out there begging for an opportunity to fill this ever-increasing gap?”

Coincidentally, New Jersey-based Barnabas Health (www.barnabashealthcareers.org) announced on Monday that the health system would be conducting an HIM open house at its Monmouth Medical Center to interview “experienced” coders, as the announcement states, today from 4 to 7 p.m.

And, the Barnabas announcement, indicated, candidates must have the ability to work from home.

Hello, anyone?

 

Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of ICD10monitor and is the executive producer and program host of Talk Ten Tuesdays.