The Work of a Coder: Survey Tells Us Who We Are

in January to the Work of a Coder survey. It revealed some surprising results, further defining us as a profession and helping to debunk some stereotypes.

The survey, made available online through a Web link, was open to responses for six weeks. It garnered 12,068 respondents, of which 93.5 percent were professional coders certified through AAPC. The survey collected demographic information regarding work environment and credentials, and included 40 questions specific to work and working relationships. Completing the exam were 8,975 coders, or 74.4 percent of participants. The data aggregation engine for the survey was provided by SurveyMonkey.com.

The results found in the Members area of the AAPC Web site, were completed by coders in all walks of life. Half work in physician practices. Billing company employees comprise 11.8 percent of responses, and outpatient hospital employees, 9.8 percent. The weight of the numbers in physician practices is reflective of AAPC membership. The survey goes further into the actual tasks performed in the office.

But that’s where the ho-hum part of the survey ends. Here are some of the interesting results:

  • Most of those surveyed (92 percent) felt relationships between providers and payers are positive.
  • Respondents like the idea of working from home, and frequently mentioned noise in the office as a problem affecting productivity. In all, 31 percent of respondents said they work at home some of the time, and 8 percent said they worked at home full-time. The highest number of telecommuters is found among billers; 39 percent work at home some of the time and 13 percent work at home full-time. Only half said professional coders review EOBs and handle appeals at their office.
  • Six out of 10 said their physicians have a solid knowledge of coding and compliance, and seven out of 10 say their physicians comply with coding documentation requirements.
  • Most (93 percent) say they are provided with necessary resources and that their employers pay for their CEUs (71 percent). Only 62 percent of employers pay for membership dues.
  • Fifty-six percent of respondents said their physicians perform coding duties in their practice. Of those physicians who code, 71 percent do so regularly or all the time. Of those who code, three out of four do so using cheat sheets or EMR pick lists.
  • Most physicians, however, don’t have formal coding education while their coders do.

This exhaustive survey by the Academy helps confirm the role of the coder while clarifying misconceptions in a profession that continues to grow and change. For a more specific look, check out the Members area of the AAPC Web site.

Quotes from the Survey

“I am very lucky. I work for a physician that understands coding and the importance of proper coding and compliance. He helps me keep informed on changes and also helps me with my education and CEUs.”

“My employer understands & appreciates the value I bring to the company. I also have taken on an unofficial role as an educator and compliance officer to inform our company about coding changes and compliance issues. I am very fortunate to be working for a company like this one.”

“In the past, they were content in coding everything as pain and only providing one Dx per claim. I have proven that by being creative and using specific Dxs and different Dxs for different tests, reimbursement for these services have increased with fewer appeals necessary. Yes, I have made a difference in their practice.”

“I love my physicians but sometimes I think that they think the coders are the bad guys because we give them back charts to dictate as well as needing more information. We don’t have the same relationship as the other administrators in our office. Everybody is laughing and having great relationships with everybody else, except for us. We have to be in an office together (3 coders) and trudge away coding, trying to make ends meet at the end of the month, while it seems like everybody else isn’t even working. The coders put in a ton of hours. Sometimes I wish I could be the one out there building relationships with the physicians to let them know that we do have a personality and that we’re not the bad guys.”

“The coding department is always the ones to blame when revenue isn’t being generated fast enough.”

“When the coders go to classes and return with information, the providers do not always accept what we have learned as accurate.”

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