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This Valentine's Day, love your coder

February 11, 2015
by H. Steven Moffic
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If you are an administrator or leader, do you pay any attention to Valentine's Day in your organization? Do you show appreciation for your staff verbally, with candy, flowers or something else? If you do something like that, are your billing coders included?

Although I had leadership roles in many behavioral organizations, big and small, there was one part of that team that I always took for granted until I retired. That did not change until our editor here referred me to Mr. Chuck Buck, publisher (RACmonitor/ICD10monitor) of Panacea Healthcare Solutions, Inc., who wanted a psychiatrist who could talk about the suicide of Robin Williams this past summer.

One thing led to another and I started to give brief presentations on their show, Talk Ten Tuesdays, on various psychiatric diagnoses to an audience geared toward the healthcare coding system. Finally, it became clear to me how important coders were, and are. This has now led to a series of Wellness Wednesday Webcasts, starting today, on The Joy of Coding.

To elaborate on my prior guilt, I had even disliked our coders because they were forcing me to abandon my sloppy handwritten notes to learn to do an Electronic Medical Record system, which had built-in templates to justify my diagnoses with proper documentation.

And, yet, though I was often responsible for the financial well-being of my organizations, besides the clinical care, little had I appreciated that the coders were crucial for our reimbursement.

I suppose one excuse is that coders were "out of sight" and "out of mind." In a large organization, they worked by themselves in small, windowless cubicles.

Perhaps this isolation and lack of appreciation accounts in part for their over-representation in my clinical practice. They were often overwhelmed in doing more with less time. For psychiatry, they translated our American diagnostic system, DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual), into the universal one, ICD (International Classification of Diseases).

There's no better time to show them our appreciation than during the ramp up to a major new coding challenge (ICD-10).

In recently being asked to write a chapter for an upcoming book on psychiatric ethics, called "Ethical Leadership in Psychiatry", I even surprised myself with the conclusion that the essential goal was for the leader to have compassionate love for staff, coupled with clear and realistic expectations for productivity. Certainly, that should include billers and coders.

Why we clinicians don't learn directly to use ICD instead of DSM is a question to answer in a later blog. In the meanwhile, have a lovely Valentine's Day and love your coders!

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H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...