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Coder Communication: Tips and Best Practices

Posted by Janetta Butler

CollaborationTextGraphic1.pngOver the last couple years coding has been influenced by the transition to ICD-10, Quality Indicators, and Data Analytics causing coding roles to change tremendously.  One aspect of change has been substantially increased email communication with other health information teams (CDI, QA, Case Management) related to clinical documentation and coding accuracy. 

The ultimate responsibility is being placed on coders to interpret clinical documentation and apply coding accuracy.  When questioned, coders should be able to communicate logical answers backing up their assessments.  For many coders, this is a new concept.  Some may struggle with this newfound communication in relationship to the daily challenges of maintaining productivity.  Coders are relearning time management and organizational skills in order to better manage productivity and email communications in their work day.  

As a manager, part of my role is to help coach and mentor our staff through these milestones.  We are all committed to the same purpose “providing accuracy to clinical documentation” and the realization is that communication between these teams helps to build a robust picture of patient care.  Coders with enhanced communication skills advance individual success and are better able to demonstrate professional coding & clinical knowledge and expertise in the healthcare field. 

Need to brush up on your communication skills?  Here are several key components to ensure a better communication experience:

  1. Message Tone
    1. Communicate in a professional manner try not to use “I” statements
    2. Read original communication(s) as an opinion
    3. Focus on the intent of the message, it is about the clinical documentation, in other words, do not take it personally
    4. Responses should be a reflection of clinical documentation not personal opinions
    5. To better explain coding rational utilize chart documentation with coding clinics/guidelines
    6. Indifference will occur, when this occurs there is a high likelihood a physician query is required to clarify the clinical documentation to come to an agreement
  1. Timely email responses or at minimum acknowledgement
    1. Choosing particular times to review and respond (morning, before/after lunch, end of day) do not go days without responding
    2. Choose to review emails in half hour to hour increments based on coding workflow to email volumes
    3. Should you not be able to respond within an approximate 24 time allotment, provide acknowledgements to emails giving a brief note with a response time they can expect
    4. Should the email volume become overwhelming seek out advice from others or manager to better handle the situation

We all like to receive timely responses to our email communications, being professional, courteous, and a good communicator will automatically lead you to much quicker outcome and better relationships. Furthermore, reponding quickly can actually increase productivity by closing the communication feedback loop and allowing coders and managers to resist stagnation when waiting for a response. 

How do you ensure you are communicating effectively on the job?  I’m interested in hearing any additional suggestions you may have.  Leave your comments below.

Topics: Coding