This is the first of a three-blog series titled Mentoring for a New Coder.

TrustHCS is fortunate to have long-term partnerships with many healthcare organizations. This blog series explores a recent engagement in which our audit team provided a customized program to train and mentor a new coder for an academic medical center.

  • Number of beds: more than 500
  • Coding and audit challenges: The medical center lacked access to real-time coding productivity reports, so tracking and measuring daily productivity was difficult.
  • New coder situation: Sally Smith was a new hire, right out of school. Her only coding experience consisted of school assignments. She had never worked in a production setting.

This hospital typically hires coders who already have on-the-job coding experience, so training is primarily focused on the facility’s coding guidelines. However, since Sally had never worked in a hospital setting she required more extensive training.

TrustHCS was engaged to audit all of Sally’s work. We provided mentoring to ensure a smooth transition to the medical center’s coding team.

Step 1: Measure with Audits

Sally attended hospital orientation, obtained her system credentials and received an overview of the emergency department coding she would be doing from her direct supervisor. Following these initial steps taken by the medical center, our first task was to review 100 percent of her work by conducting daily audits. The process included five steps:

  • Sally coded account and put them on hold
  • TrustHCS auditor then reviewed her code assignments
  • Auditor entered findings into workbook
  • Findings were provided to Sally
  • Audit team hosted a daily phone call with Sally to provide feedback and education on the records she coded the previous day

The auditors also tracked Sally’s accuracy rate over the course of the project, as shown below.

Communication is Critical

The daily calls were an important part of the process to make sure the information was still fresh in Sally’s mind. This enabled her to make changes to cases with identified issues and drop the bills in a timely manner.

Sally participated in weekly calls with her coding supervisor to discuss trends, challenges, educational opportunities and successes. Her supervisor provided positive feedback on the TrustHCS program, including her appreciation of Sally’s increased understanding and ability to defend her code selection choices.

Join us next month when we discuss the next step in the program: Step 2: Monitor with Patience.

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