If you-re as encouraged as I am about the results of The Coding Institute's recent orthopedic coding salary survey, you-ll want to know more about how you can maximize your earning potential in this exciting field. Your first step? Consider certification.
When I first got involved in the coding field, I did it because I actually enjoyed it--and I still do. Knowing that there are codes available that will exactly define procedures, diseases and conditions and that all I have to do is search out and report those numbers is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle for me.
When I train new coders, I compare their new career with that of a detective. The clues are all there waiting for us to come up with a solution, but we just have to get out our magnifying glass--or in a coder's case, the magical coding books--and go to work to solve the case (or the surgery). Prepare for Certification The take-home lesson from The Coding Institute-s salary survey is that if you are not certified yet, you should start preparing to sit for one of the AHIMA or AAPC certification exams. Before deciding which certification to work toward first, visit the various association Web sites and learn the differences between the many certifications.
(See our chart later in this issue to find out what each certification means.)
Whichever certification you decide on, certification will always pay off, as will immersing yourself in just one specialty. You-ve no doubt heard the saying, -Jack of all trades, master of none.- It's an idea that you should remember when you choose your specialty.
Sticking with one coding specialty will put you on the road toward mastering that specialty--which will put you on the road to being sought after in your field. Shadow a Surgeon As a coder, you most likely have daily access to orthopedic surgeons. Take advantage of that contact by asking about the procedures they perform. Try to get permission to shadow a surgeon in the office and the operating room. Most physicians are going to want certified, knowledgeable coders--and most are willing to help you get there by sharing their knowledge.
If you have the knowledge to code well in orthopedics, the physicians will want to keep you in your position. Likewise, they are going to reward your expertise with --you guessed it--a higher salary.
If you are a master coder, you shouldn't worry that you will be replaced by novice coders who are much cheaper to hire. Physicians are aware that a broad knowledge base is a necessity in the coding world. Nor should you worry that all of the new software available will replace human [...]