Wanted: ASC Coders How to recruit and retain top-notch staff BY ROBERT KURTZ


n an industry that undergoes fre- quent changes, Dianne (Wallace)

Appleby, RN, found comfort in a con- stant: her ASC’s coder.

“Our first coder came on board

when we opened about 25 years ago,” says Appleby, executive director of Menomonee Falls Ambulatory Sur- gery Center in Menomonee Falls, Wis- consin. “A second coder joined us about 10 years later when it became apparent that our growing case vol- ume would soon become too much for a single person. For about 15 years, these were the only two coders our ASC employed.”

That changed at the end of 2018, when one of the coders retired. Now, the search is on for a replacement. “Coders with ASC experience are such a precious commodity,” Appleby says. “The skill levels of both our cod- ers was phenomenal. I am trying to remain optimistic that I will be able to find someone with the skillset we are looking for.”

Menomonee Falls Ambulatory Sur- gery Center is owned by a hospital sys- tem that requires job searches to begin internally. If that fails to produce a suit- able candidate, the search will go exter- nal, Appleby says. “We will initially try to find someone living in Wiscon- sin, perhaps a coder who has worked for another ASC in the state. Our hos- pital system uses recruiters, so they will assist in our search. We would promote our opening through the Association of Wisconsin Surgery Centers.” If in-state recruitment efforts come up short, Appleby will widen the outreach. “We will post our open- ing to the ASCA Career Center. If we find a coder who lives outside

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insurance verification roles and then moved up again to fill our openings for coders.”

The transition to coder did not hap- pen immediately, Nash says. “Our ASC paid for both of them to take cod- ing courses and become certified. Once they became certified, they received the promotion and a merit-based raise. We pay for their continuing education as well. I am a believer in supporting education. It helps staff do their jobs better and builds loyalty.” When one of Manatee Surgical Cen-


Find high-quality candidates who are the right fit for your ASC with the ASCA Career Center. This easy-to-use platform connects employers and job-seekers in the ASC community. careercenter

our area, we will weigh whether to encourage and entice this individual to relocate or consider whether to start using remote coders.” For Manatee Surgical Center in Bradenton, Florida, both of its cur- rent coders came from within the ASC, says Administrator and Risk Manager Linda Nash, CASC. “One I hired 19 years ago, the other I hired 12 years ago. They started as medi- cal records specialists, moved up into

ter’s coders is ill or takes a vacation, the other coder covers the workload. Bend Surgery Center in Bend, Oregon, how- ever, does not have that luxury because it employs only one coder, says Admin- istrator Neal Maerki, RN, CASC. The ASC has worked with the same coder for at least the past 15 years. “During her downtime or if we are

overwhelmed with work, we use an outsourcing coding company,” Maerki says. “They are able to provide the temporary help we need.” Appleby says her ASC will be secur- ing a similar service until its job open- ing is filled. “For the short term, we will need this assistance to ensure we do not fall behind on submitting claims.” Maerki is grateful to receive reli- able coding from its single coder, and says his ASC works to keep this indi- vidual from considering other jobs. “We pay her well and provide a good benefits package, profit sharing and bonus plan. She is also able to work from home and is grateful for that opportunity. I think she feels appreci- ated and appreciates us. It is a good mutual relationship and one I hope continues for a long time.”

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