By Bill Wagner, CHPS, CPCO, Chief Operating Officer

Sarah Humbert, RHIA, Vice President of Coding Operations, and I recently had the opportunity to talk with three of KIWI-TEK’s long-time coding partners about the whirlwind year we’ve all had.

In this 3-part blog series we explore some of the biggest changes these revenue cycle experts experienced, how their HIM and coding teams met the challenges, and advice for our readers to help navigate 2021. First up, adjusting to change.

KIWI-TEK Customer Blog Series

Part 1 of 3 – Bold Steps Taken to Address Sudden COVID-19 Changes

What was the biggest change your HIM department staff experienced as a result of COVID-19? What steps were taken to address that change, and how well did your staff adapt?

Lorie B. Mills, RHIT, CCS, AHIMA Approved I10 Trainer, System Director of Coding and CDI, Health Information Management, Forrest General Hospital: Adjusting workflows to accommodate employee needs was one of the biggest changes in our HIM department. Due to health risk, we had to find workarounds for employees who round the floor to retrieve information to be scanned. HIM also had to staff the controlled access entrances to the facilities, which proved to be a challenge.

In addition, employee assignments were adjusted to accommodate health risk factors. We arranged for the majority of HIM operations staff to work from home. This was an easy transition for the coding team which has been remote for 18 years. Overall, most everyone has adapted well.

Matt Hoeger, Director of Revenue Integrity, Penn State Health, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: During the transition to a remote workforce the most challenging hurdle was communication. In-person team meetings were replaced with Zoom meetings and conference calls. Though communication continues to pose challenges, regular email communication from leadership and online town hall meetings help bridge the gaps.

Tracy G. Hickey, MBA, RHIA, CPHI, CHTS-CP, FAHIMA, Director, Health Information Management, West Tennessee Healthcare: Some of the biggest changes were related to the workload balance due to reduced volumes, employee furloughs, reduced hours and closing the HIM department to visitors who needed medical records. Social distancing also presented a problem due to limited work space, which led to shifting some employees to work from home. Our staff adjusted well and worked together to resolve any issues. As a result, productivity actually increased as our remote team remained positive throughout the process.

Sarah Humbert, RHIA, Vice President of Coding Operations, KIWI-TEK: The biggest challenge has been the ever-changing volumes and the ability to schedule coders in a fluid environment. Open and constant communication with both clients and coders has been crucial to manage a mix of full-time, part-time and PRN coders to fulfill client needs.

The second biggest challenge has been keeping all staff up to date on coding guidance. To address constant changes from CMS and payers, we conducted educational Zoom sessions for our clients and then housed all materials on a resource and training site. For ongoing support, we created a tip sheet that is circulated often to provide updated information and corresponding dates of changes. These measures have proved effective to keep people informed and on task with their responsibilities.

As we anticipate potential challenges and opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world, the insights and advice shared by our panel of HIM experts is invaluable. Join us for Part 2: Biggest HIM and Revenue Cycle Changes of 2020.

HIM’s How to Thrive Guide

COVID-19 Challenges, Solutions and Advice to Forge Ahead