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6 Essential Skills you need to be a good Clinical Coder

By Jonathan France ACC

Attention to detail

This is a given right? Most of us may be aware of how this portrays to coding as it’s a cornerstone of the industry.

However careless errors can quickly set coders and those working closely with them, back several steps. Missing the assignment of a 5th characters code,  or improper sequencing and dagger (+) and asterix (*) codes can have huge implications especially in:-

  • Data and Data usage

  • Financial implications

  • Successful treatment outcomes

If you’re new to the industry, it’s crucial to learn and develop this skill. Quickly!

Communication

Communication is also a key skill needed as a clinical coder.

Whether it’s a discussion with your colleagues, engaging with member of the multidisciplinary team or liaising with a consultant, developing this skill is vitally important in all formats including in person interactions or via electronic formats

To succeed particularly in this area coders should be able to:

  • Put active listening skills to use

  • Be able to retain information

  • Ask questions to better understand complex procedures/diagnoses

  • Able to assert their knowledge and experience to a wide variety of trust staff

Ability to face evolving challenges

All professions face challenges, but coders must be able to work through complex (sometimes daunting) case notes and medical processes, all whilst navigating day-to-day interactions and relationships with colleagues and medical professionals – No mean feat let me tell you.

But even with years of experience, coding isn’t always easy. Coders need to be able to investigate diagnoses, follow up with clinicians and be prepared to revise their work given the constant changes in standards and guidance.

Able to adapt to new technologies quickly

Coders operate across multiple technology platforms and clinical systems (some are better than others) and as all trusts are different, so are individual software programmes. Successful coders should have proficiency or atleast have an awareness of applications such as:-

  • NHS digital Eviewer/ Online versions of ICD-10 and OPCS Reference manuals and classification books

  • Microsoft Teams – used currently for Clinical Coding Online Training

  • E-learning Platforms such as Clinical Coding Hub, Delen/Digital Learning Solutions

  • Microsoft Office (including word and excel)

  • Medicode – Most common across trusts

  • Document Management Systems (As more & more trusts are going paperless or paper light, more and more document management systems are coming to fruition)

Ability to work independently

Coders walk a fine line between an individual and an interpersonal role. Whilst we’re represented as a team/department to the trust, you and only you are solely responsible for your coding.

The role is very unique in this way. However, the most effective coders take advantage of opportunities to work individually and drive their goals. There are a number of different coding positions and with a strong background built on up to date knowledge and experience you can grow your career.

Since March 2020, remote positions are popping up all over the country and if you have the discipline to work independently and can multi-task you can take advantage of the new flexibility that hasn’t been possible before.

Facilitator Soft skills

Bit of a curve ball this one but I thought it’s relevant given the change in climate and the recent importance of clinical engagement.

The industry has been good at training coders to code rules and national standards, but not necessarily those soft skills of how to engage a clinician. How do you get a clinician to talk about data and for them to understand coding data?

Ever heard of the term ‘data grief’? There have been processes written about it. If you go into a room full of consultants, stick a slide up and say, ‘This is your data’, the first thing they’ll tell you is ‘no its not’. You’ve got to get them through that initial data grief stage from ‘No this isn’t our data’ to ‘ooh let’s have a look’ to ‘Ooh it could be’… It gets them to an acceptance stage of why their coding data is different or why their coding data isn’t what they expect. It’s these facilitating/facilitator soft skills that I believe are a whole new world for a lot of coders, but are essential as the role coders play is constantly evolving.

 

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January 13, 2021

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