Now that we offer a Student Edition of the Coding Suite, a common question is whether students should stick to paper, or if using companion electronic tools offer any advantages. These are smart questions! Perhaps after the switch to ICD-10, the testing organizations will be more open to electronic books, but in the mean time, let's discuss the interplay between paper-based and electronic coding resources.
First, our Coder's Resource Student Edition provides BOTH coding tools and electronic versions of your favorite codebooks.
- We provide browse-and-search enabled Electronic CodeBooks for each of these code sets: HCPCS, ICD-9-CM Diagnoses, ICD-9-CM Procedures, ICD-10-CM Diagnoses, ICD-10-PCS Procedures, and payment codebooks for each of the major payment/coding systems including: NCCI, APC, MS-DRG, RVU/Physician Fee, and more.
- We provide software tools for studetns as well: Easy to use Code Explorer search tool, NCCI Code Pair Checker, ICD-10 Explorer.
Second, let's talk about the process a student goes through on their way to certification, and how to integrate electronic resources each point along the way. In the beginning, learning how to use the book is essential, but along the way, using electronic companion books and search tools can help tremendously.
DURING THE INTRO COURSE
Stick to the paper book for starters! You must still learn to use the book, and you should choose one carefully that has the right front and back resources. Understand the CPT Chapter structure, the information provided in the Appendix sections, what the various HCPCS code families represent, and how to navigate ICD via both the index and the chapters.
Start with the book, but after the intro course, the benefits of the e-book companion becomes obvious…
DURING SECONDARY and INTERMEDIATE COURSES
Use a companion electronic book in conjunction with your paper books. Use an electronic search tool that connects you to the electronic book. Begin to extend your understanding of how pure coding instructions extend into the way Medicare and Payers expect you to use codes. Here are some examples of how electronic resources help the student:
- In the ICD-10 book, there are important gestational diabetes instructions in the guidelines, but there is nothing in the index or the tabular section to point you to those guidelines; a key word electronic search finds that info instantly, in essence teaching you HOW to use the paper book!
- Medicare requires G codes for reporting screening mammography and there is already a CPT code for that and there is nothing in the CPT Radiology chapter to point you to the HCPCS codes; electronic searching across HCPCS & CPT immediately identifies Medicare-specific G Codes that supercede CPT codes without having to open two books.
- Updates to the books happen only yearly, but electronic resources can be updated daily if necessary. Consider the Influenza Vaccine codes that change every year, and are generally not published until AFTER the July AMA CPT meeting, so they generally don't make it into the book until the following year. Electronic resources are automatically updated, and after the first quarter of the year, will be more accurate than the paper book.
AFTER YOU PASS THE TEST
Productivity AND accuracy is key for all professional coders, and yet it is a challenge for new coders to find a professional job without real-world experience. Use of electronic resources, such as the MediRegs Coding Suite Code Explorer tool, the NCCI Code Pair Checker, and the Local Coverage Determinations will prepare the student for stepping into their new career instantly. We are happy to work directly with students and professors to show examples of how to integrate the Student Edition resources into the classroom. Here are a few example lessons:
- Open your paper book to a section that has been superceded, amended, or corrected by either Medicare or the AMA. Use the Code Explorer GUIDANCE link to find the corrected information.
- The presence of a code does not indicate that Medicare will pay. Payment varies by setting, with Medicare issuing very different rules for the Ambulatory Surgery, Hospital Outpatient and Physician Practice settings. For a given code, identify the national unadjusted payment rate and the payment indicator for these various settings. What do you think accounts for the variability in payment rules and rates?
- The presence of a code, and the assignment by Medicare of a payment rate does not indicate that Medicare will pay. The service must actually be covered for a specifically indicated diagnostic condition, and these coverage rules are generally set locally, not nationally. For a given code, determine if that service is covered and for whom in one of the Medicare Administrative Contractor jurisdictions. Compare to other regions. This is a great class sharing exercise.
- Some codes are "bundled" or subject to NCCI edits and these notes generally are not included in the book. For a set of procedures that are commonly performed together, determine the NCCI rules.
Even for professionals, we will always recommend purchasing the CPT(R) Professional Edition because the layout makes understanding some concepts easier, but the HCPCS and ICD-9/ICD-10 books in paper versions don’t offer significant differences from our electronic versions, and are an enormous benefit to the new coder.
All coders will be ICD-10 students for the next couple of years! Our ICD-10 Explorer is an exceptional way to visualize the mapping between ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes without leading to Encoder Dependency! Our ICD-10 Electronic CodeBooks offer significant savings in both time and subscription fees while Medicare finalizes this code set. And because we aren't limited to page counts like paper book publishers are, our content is more comprehensive, integrating Guidelines, Indexes, Tabular Sections for an easy-to-use resource!
Finally, don't forget that your MediRegs Coding Suite subscription includes invitations to attend FREE Educational webinars in which AAPC, AHIMA and HCCA CEUs are provided for attendance. This gives both the coding student and the coding professional the opportunity to stay on top of changes in the industry and keep their credentials up to date.