Q&A: Cross-training a coding department
Q: I manage an inpatient coding department, and I am considering having my team cross-trained. Are all coders usually cross-trained? And where would be the best place to train my staff?
A: Traditionally, coding professionals have expertise in one or more types of records, but not necessarily expertise in all types of records.
Building a team of fully cross-trained coders who are competently able to code all record types is one of a coding manager’s goals. Achieving this goal requires that managers inventory the skills of each coder, identify focused education, and plan for cross-training opportunities.
Staff members may need to attend educational programs and learn how to code cases that are unfamiliar to them, during paid worked hours. Developing this type of plan may require administrative approval because of lost work hours and lower productivity during the learning period.
Ideally, cross-training activities occur on-site. Working alongside colleagues is easier for coders being cross-trained with respect to new record types. This enables them to ask questions about difficult cases or request help in deciphering clinicians’ handwritten or unedited transcribed entries.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A is adapted from the Practical Guide to Coding Management by Rose T. Dunn, MBA, RHIA, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA. Dunn is the chief operating officer of First Class Solutions, Inc., a health information management consulting firm based in St. Louis.