I’ve been a Kaiser Permanente employee for 12 years. I began as a Tele-Customer Service Representative for the Member Services Call Center in Stockton, CA until our department was closed in 2012. Although I was completely devastated at the thought of losing my job, I was faced with the opportunity to learn a new career.
With only my knowledge and experience of Kaiser Permanente medical insurance, I transitioned into the Medical Coding field. “Medical coding is the transformation of healthcare diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes using ICD 10 CM, CPT, and HCPCS books. The diagnoses and procedure codes are taken from medical record documentation, such as transcription of physician’s notes, laboratory and radiologic results, etc.,” as explained by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
Think of it this way – Every time you go to see your doctor that visit has a medical code assigned which translates into dollars that are then billed to the insurance for payment to the doctor. Need stitches? That’s a code. Spent the night at the hospital? That’s a code too. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, more people now have access to healthcare which means more people are using services. More services used equals more work for medical coders. Someone has to code all those services!
I became a Certified Professional Coder in January of 2012. How did I embrace this new career? This is how I did it.
- As members of the labor union SEIU-UHW, we were fortunate to be retrained. This included arranging a medical coding course from JL Academy. This was an important first step. Enrolling in a reputable and rigorous medical coding course will make the difference in becoming a certified coder. The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam is 5 hours and 40 mins. This exam will test your knowledge of anatomy and physiology, procedural interpretation, and diagnosis understanding and application. You don’t need a medical background but you do need to be willing to learn medical terminology, and build a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology. At this time, you don’t need a college degree either. Anyone of any age can take the CPC exam. You can find current learning centers, both online and classroom centers, by searching the AAPC site here.
- Networking with other medical coders helped me better understand my new career. After years on the phone speaking directly with Kaiser Permanente members, I didn’t quite know where my work now fit within the healthcare industry. In my department, we don’t have any interaction with our members. Attending AAPC Chapter meetings and HEALTHCON, the AAPC annual conference, helped me connect with my peers and understand how medical coding fits into the Revenue Cycle puzzle. In order to grow professionally, you have to connect with your industry’s resource group. For medical coders, AAPC Chapter meetings are a great connection. Find your nearest AAPC Chapter here.
- Continuing my medical coding education is the last important key to embracing my new career. Medical coding constantly changes due to medical updates with procedures and diagnosis’. Adapting to change and being willing to learn has allowed me to feel confident about my work. In addition to my department’s training, I find other ways to educate myself by watching webinars, attending workshops and conferences. You can find upcoming events here through the AAPC website.
I’m happy to be a part of the ever-growing world of Healthcare. Are you a medical coder? What helped you when you began this career? Please comment, I’d love hear your story.