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Set Up Your Coder for Success

Find and retain the right match for your ASC BY SAHELY MUKERJI


xperts agree that inpatient coding and ASC coding are completely

different. Therefore, it would be a mistake to hire an inpatient coder and expect them to code ASC procedures accurately.

“I am gun shy about hiring hospi-

tal coders,” says Stephanie Ellis, RN, owner and president of Ellis Medical Consulting Inc. in Franklin, Tennes- see. “It is easier to train a coder who is not trained in hospitals because it is so different. With hospitals, you are dealing with Part A and not Part B Medicare. It is hard for hospital cod- ers to unlearn that.” Coders should have, at minimum,

a working knowledge of coding ASC procedures before you hire them, says Cristina Bentin, president and founder of Coding Compliance Management in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “You should not hire them with the thought process


that you will train them if you aren’t yourself familiar with the ABCs of ASC coding. They should have expe- rience in coding ASC procedures with specific knowledge in your ASC’s case mix to include each specialty’s coding directives and reporting guidelines.”


“It is difficult to find people who have ASC coding experience,” Ellis says. “There are a lot fewer ASCs than phy- sician practices or hospitals. There are a lot more coders working in hospitals than at ASCs.”

There is a considerable demand for

good ASC coders, irrelevant of whether you are a coding and billing company or an ASC, Bentin says. “It is a niche that isn’t necessarily the first choice of most coders fresh out of school. ASC coders need to be knowledgeable with

all the diverse specialties, directives and reporting guidelines.” Recruiting agencies do not help in

finding ASC coders as much as you’d think they would, Ellis says, neither do coding job boards such as the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or the American Health Information Man- agement Association (AHIMA). “When I speak at meetings, the

coders who attend get to see me, approach me and send resumes,” Ellis says. “The last couple of coders I have hired, came to me. They heard me speak or heard about my company and approached me.” Word-of-mouth and networking conferences are the most effective ways to find good ASC coders, Ben- tin says. “You could certainly go to the AHIMA, AAPC job sites or to the accrediting societies and local AAPC chapters, but it is not a certainty you will get candidates with ASC expe- rience. Advertising is good, but you have to weed out those that have other coding experience by testing them on

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