Top Methods to Overcome Medical Coding Challenges: Build Up Your Coding Team for Success with Feedback from the YES Executive Management Team
The demand for accurate and efficient medical coding is more critical now than ever before, especially in the post-COVID era. In this context, healthcare organizations are facing multiple medical coding challenges in managing and motivating their coding teams. In a recent interview with several members of the YES Executive Management Team, they shared their top strategies for developing and motivating their remote coding and auditing teams.
This article sheds light on the key medical coding challenges faced by healthcare organizations in managing coding teams, the factors that lead to burnout among coding professionals, and successful strategies that have been implemented to boost the morale and motivation of coding teams.
Key Challenges Faced by Healthcare Organizations
Q: What key medical coding challenges do healthcare organizations face when it comes to managing and motivating their coding teams?
“Healthcare organizations face key challenges in managing and motivating coding teams, especially in the post-COVID era,” Vanessa Youmans, Vice President of Coding Services, says. “The demand for heightened accuracy and efficiency in medical coding is increasingly critical, given the slim margins hospitals are grappling with post-COVID.”
Youmans continues, “The need for intense financial oversight is trickling down throughout organizations, including coding and Health Information Management (HIM) departments.”
Beyond budgetary constraints and coding accuracy standards, HIM departments are facing other barriers. “Evolving regulatory landscapes, rapid technological integration, and the need for seamless interdepartmental collaboration pose other significant hurdles,” Youmans says. “Balancing quality and quantity, ensuring ongoing education, and maintaining employee well-being are essential considerations to addressing this pressure on the team members.”
Hospitals are feeling the strain from operational pressures, but they’re also struggling to find qualified medical coders. Amy Davis, Director of Inpatient Coding and DRG Validation Services, explains, “The recruitment and retention of experienced coders in a competitive market is challenging. The high demand for experienced coders leads to disruption in workflow and productivity.”
Davis continues, “Budgetary constraints can impact a healthcare organization’s ability to invest in staff, technology, and ongoing training, which are critical for managing and motivating a coding team effectively. Keeping coding staff up to date and ensuring compliance with the changing regulations and guidelines can be challenging.”
To further elaborate on the challenges faced by healthcare organizations, Jennifer Dilley, Director of ProFee Coding Services, sheds light on the additional specific issues that coding teams encounter. “Some of the issues healthcare organizations struggle with are keeping up with coding updates/coding complexity for different coding modalities,” Dilley says. “They also struggle with keeping team goals of productivity and quality standards in the forefront and coaching team members to meet those standards.”
Dilley mentioned that organizations often forget to keep coders challenged with cross-training and motivated by avoiding burnout.
In light of these challenges, healthcare organizations must prioritize investments in their coding teams in order to maintain efficiency and compliance. Without efficiency and compliance, providers will run into major issues. “Managing workflow and productivity is critical,” Davis says. “Inefficiencies can result in backlogs, delayed billing, and loss of revenue.”
Q: In your experience, what are the most common factors that lead to burnout among coding professionals, and how can healthcare organizations address these issues?
“Prolonged periods of overtime can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, diminishing overall productivity and increasing the risk of burnout,” Youmans says. “Unrealistic productivity targets can create a constant pressure to deliver, often at the expense of quality work and well-being.”
An unstructured work environment can lead to unmotivated, unfocused employees. “Poor communication, lack of support, or overly critical management styles can erode morale and contribute to burnout,” Youmans says. “Ambiguity in job roles, responsibilities, and performance metrics can create stress and frustration, as employees struggle to meet undefined objectives.”
Davis adds, “Limited career growth can also lead to burnout.”
Healthcare organizations need to remember that their employees are human and therefore need some flexibility. Youmans says, “Rigid work schedules without flexibility for personal or family needs can contribute to stress and dissatisfaction, ultimately leading to burnout.”
Coders can become frustrated or unmotivated if they don’t have adequate resources to complete their tasks. “Insufficient access to tools, training, and technological support can hinder productivity and increase frustration levels,” says Youmans.
In addition to the factors cited above, Dilley mentions that not enough education time and a lack of incentives can contribute to burnout. “To address the issues, I recommend managing overtime hours and making sure to get team members time for education to stay current with coding guidelines/updates,” Dilley says.
Try These Development Strategies Today
Q: Can you share some examples of successful strategies or initiatives that have been implemented to boost the morale and motivation of your coding teams?
“We have implemented monthly case study reviews that allow the team to review a complicated case,” Elizabeth Kelly, Director of Auditing Services, explains. “Everyone learns from each other. It is excellent knowledge building and team building.”
Davis concurs, “We perform monthly quality audits on each coder to identify potential compliance risks.”
Investing in coders’ professional development with ongoing education is crucial to keeping your team motivated. “We provide coder education with CEUs for credential support,” Davis says. “We aim to cross-train team members to do other functions than their primary job (e.g., Outpatient coders are trained to become Inpatient coders, Inpatient coders are trained to perform specialized audits, etc.).” Dilley and Kristie Thomas, Director of Outpatient Coding Services, both agree that providing cross-training and career growth opportunities is essential.
Dilley shares, “We have implemented short 10-15-minute weekly education webinars. We ask the team members to request the education topics they would like, including them in education initiatives helps motivate the team to stay current and on the same page.”
To ensure a strong and cohesive team, investing in team-building activities is just as crucial as providing the necessary education and training for coders. “We do team-building activities to engage our team members and boost staff morale,” Davis says. “One-on-one meetings with our team members to discuss any concerns of the individual team member and to provide information about the coder’s progress.”
Thomas includes that transparency and open communication, as well as having an active group chat on Microsoft Teams, go a long way in motivating her coding team.
Dilley adds one last key strategy, “A flexible work environment is key to having a work-life balance.”
Overcome These Obstacles – & More – With Our Help
Q: How can YES support healthcare organizations in achieving their coding team development and motivation goals?
“YES can play a pivotal role in assisting healthcare organizations in achieving their coding team development and motivation objectives,” Youmans explains. “We offer comprehensive support, including providing coding expertise to cover team education and PTO needs.”
Youmans continues, “Additionally, our tailored education programs can assist the organization with robust continuing education initiatives. Upon clients’ request, we offer specialized requests for coding team development such as coding newsletters and coding roundtable presentations. These resources not only enhance team proficiency but also foster a culture of continuous learning and engagement.”
Dilley elaborates, “Our coder training and education help our clients’ coders stay up to date with ever-changing guidelines.” Davis agrees, pointing out that YES’ contract coding services, coder education, and quality audits can help providers reach their quality and financial goals.
Additionally, YES also offers a range of services to help healthcare providers improve their coding processes and outcomes. “We can work with organizations to establish clear quality and productivity standards,” Dilley says. “Regular feedback can motivate coders to improve to meet those standards.”
Youmans says, “By leveraging our expertise, healthcare organizations can optimize their coding teams for sustained success in a dynamic healthcare landscape.”