A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Certified (or Certifiable) Medical Coder

One of the benefits of being laid off is the chance to wipe the slate clean and start over again. In Pennsylvania – (where, at the moment, child molesters still have free rein (but stay tuned, because a change is in the air) — the state offers retraining programs for unemployed. It’s called CareerLinks, a state funded effort to get people back to meaningful work. Of course, being a bureaucracy, there’s several hurdles full of paperwork to be dealt with, and there is rigorous testing (including math) to determine your qualifications for the program.

My passage through all this made it possible for me to get instruction in medical coding, a career choice that is predicted to explode in the next few years and create many new job opportunities. So I gave up five months worth of Saturday mornings to learn the intricacies of extracting information from medical and surgical descriptions and distilling it down to a five-digit procedure code and a three-to-five digit diagnosis code for the purpose of billing insurance carriers. This was followed by a certification exam given by the AAPC – American Association of Professional Coders.

I can now report that all of this effort has paid off. I passed the exam and I can now call myself a professional coder.

Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the moral support of my wife and colleagues at work, and most importantly I couldn’t have accomplished this without the investment of the everyday state taxpayer, who send their hard cash to Harrisburg every year and wonder what return they get. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Pennsylvania taxpayer, I want to express my deep appreciation for your faith in my abilities to become a useful, gainfully employed citizen of the Commonwealth again. I also couldn’t have done it! Hey, I’m a taxpayer too! Some of my money went to funding this program. So thank you to me!

It was a lot of hard work. The last month or so required that I concentrate on my studies as the course wound down towards the certification exam. Even though I have 20 years experience paying medical claims, I still had to learn or relearn medical terms that are vital parts of the health care industry. Many vocational specialties have a specialized vocabulary, and health care is no exception.

For example, wounds are not simply cleaned; they are debrided. Surgical sites are not doused with water or some other sterile solution; they are irrigated. Lesions are not removed; they are excised. Body limbs are not hacked off or otherwise chopped off with extreme prejudice; they are amputated.

One new term for me was the process of fulguration; the destruction of tissue – most likely malignant — through the use of electrical means by way of a needle. Until I learned this definition, I thought it would be proper to use this term like this: “We had to fulgurate the house last night after my wife and I had beans for supper.” It turns out that this would have been an improper use of the word fulgurate. Go figure!

Towards the end, I did countless practice exercises comprised of surgical reports. I realized that I was living, breathing, eating and sleeping medical terms. During this time, I would go about my usual morning routine of feeding Steven and Meredith, using the toilet, brewing coffee, and walking to the end of my driveway for the morning paper. In a medical report, this innocuous series of events might be reported like this:

Beef and or salmon byproducts were excised from its container and prepped in the usual fashion for feline consumption. Total bowel and bladder evacuation was performed. Next, ground particles of 95% caffeine were placed in a cone for steeping with H2O at a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. While this drip procedure was performed, an exploratory of the exterior of the property was done for the morning correspondence of news events. Using an instrument utilizing claws at one end to extract the journal reduced the risk of serious injury by allowing retrieval of the paper without the patient having to bend over to reach it. By this time, the drip procedure was completed and the caffeine solution was prepared for human consumption, allowing patient and spouse to tolerate the morning well.

Isn’t the world of medical coding fascinating?

(Thank you for reading! Be careful when and where you fulgurate; it might be illegal in some states.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

CONGRATULATIONS!! I now have a better understanding of what the medical decoder profession is all about and what is expected of those certified individuals.Thank you for enlightening me.


November 15, 2011 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Janey said...

Dear RTG,

CONGRATULATIONS! I'm pleased you have completed the certification for your new career; especially delighted that the state has paid for it. (Didn't the state do the same for our graduate studies?) Pennsylvania: The state that pays you to learn!

I'd love for you to compose, in medical terminology, a description of a typical night of our collegiate partying... :-)


November 15, 2011 at 4:23 PM  

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