7 Common Obstacles in Medical Coding

Every job has obstacles — even medical coding. In an industry that changes as often as healthcare, the obstacles often change as well. However, some of those hurdles can be universal for all medical coders. Let’s explore some of the common obstacles in the medical coding field, and what you can do to overcome them.

High Expectations

There’s a lot of hype around medical coding. While it IS a booming career with lots of great benefits (such as working from home), the over-hype can lead to a lot of disappointed newly certified coders. Some educational institutions will make a medical coding career seem as easy as taking a few classes and passing an exam. New coders become filled with dreams of immediately being hired on to work in your jammies at home. There are some institutions that will go as far as to bait moms with claims that they can do medical coding from home while watching young children.

What results are throngs of new medical coders that don’t understand what their “apprentice” status means and are frustrated that they can’t find a work from home job. Institutions are leaving out the concept that although there is a huge need for medical coders, the need is primarily for experienced medical coders. Entry-level positions are hard to come by, and unfortunately, a lot of companies aren’t structuring their staff and workloads properly to allow for entry-level coding positions. There’s also an unfortunate prevalence of “we don’t have time to train new coders” mentalities in the industry.

Learn the stories of how other coders got their first start in medical coding. Understanding how they got started and what to expect can help bring some clarity for frustrated coders.

Not Knowing Guidelines

It can be very shocking when you’re coding a specialty service for months, or maybe even years, and suddenly something in the guidelines catches your eye.

Does that say what I think it does?

Has that ALWAYS been there?

HAVE I EVEN BEEN CODING THIS CORRECTLY THE ENTIRE TIME?!

The best thing you can do Is talk to your manager and discuss your discovery and determine next steps. They will know the best way to correct the error going forward and if they have the capacity to review and adjust potential prior mistakes.

Productivity Requirements

The industry has common standards for productivity for medical coding. The benchmarks change depending on the type of coding (professional, outpatient, inpatient, risk adjustment, etc). Meeting those standards is a surprising challenge! Lots of things can factor into lower productivity such as office distractions, poor physician documentation, EMR challenges, or time researching new or complicated coding guidelines. If you’re having problems reaching your productivity, you may need to analyze your day and see what’s taking the most time. There’s no way to quantify what you’re doing without going through the task of timing out all the phone calls, emails, and research.

Not Finding a Job

Finding your first job in any industry is a challenge, and medical coding is no exception. If you’re looking for your first job (or even just a new job) check out my blog 7 Tips to Finding a Medical Coding Job. Learn how to target your efforts and provide quality over quantity when it comes to your job search!

Failed Audits

There’s no bigger ego-crusher to a coder than failing your personal internal audit. Coders are held to very high accuracy levels (usually 95-99%) and we pride ourselves in our attention to detail and accuracy. No one wants to bill a service incorrectly. If you don’t meet the required accuracy of an audit, just take it as a learning opportunity. It’s a time to recognize where you may have a weak area, address it, learn from it, and look forward to your future success. Never let an audit defeat you.

No Remote Jobs

No commute, no stuffy work clothes, no annoying co-workers and funky smells from the lunchroom! It sounds like a dream to work from home but finding permanent remote coding positions can be a struggle, especially for apprentice coders. When it comes to remote jobs, knowing the right people and having the right resume is key. Check out 7 Tips to Finding a Medical Coding Job to find some ideas on where to find them, and look to companies like Project Resume to make your resume stand out for those highly-desired remote positions.

Navigating Insurance Policies

It seems so straightforward in class, but out in the real-world insurance policies don’t always line up with coding policies. Insurance contracts are binding legal agreements, and healthcare institutions must follow the guidance provided in the contract when billing for those insurances. Learning which insurances want things coding certain ways can be daunting. The best way to combat this is to ask for any cheat sheets your organization may have. If they don’t have any, start developing them yourself and update when you get any new feedback on denials and trends!

There will always be obstacles in medical coding. New guidelines, new policies, and learning new specialties are just the tip of the iceberg. The first two years as a coder is a HUGE learning curve. Take each new experience, change, and restructuring as an opportunity to show how adaptable and eager to learn you are. But don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and concerns as needed.

Code on!

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