AAPC Social Hour: Career Paths and Certifications

The AAPC Social Hour on Facebook Live, July 15, at 11 a.m. MT (1 p.m. ET) focused on career paths and certifications.

Moderator and AAPC Social Media Manager Alex McKinley was joined by National Advisory Board (NAB) member Vanessa L. Moldovan, CPC, CPMA, CPPM, CPC-I, to discuss what led her to the business side of healthcare and the value her certifications bring. Here is what Moldovan had to say about the steps along the way that led her to find a fulfilling career in a field that she is passionate about.

Finding a Path to Success

“I started in healthcare in the 1900s,” Moldovan said with a smile. Stating her first job was emergency room registration in 1997, right around the time of the HIPAA roll out. And she fell in love with healthcare right away. She then shifted to working in the back end, the business side of healthcare, and did hospital billing for several years, quickly realizing that medical billing was what she wanted to do.

In the early 2000s, after gaining some great experience, Moldovan moved to Chicago and started working for a physician billing company. She absolutely loved this niche, stating she had found her calling. At that time, her work involved accounts receivable (AR) follow-up, working on denials and unpaid claims, and she wanted to soak up as much information as possible.

In her quest for knowledge, Moldovan learned about the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) certification and how valuable the credential would be even though she wasn’t interested in a coding career. “CPC® can help with AR follow-up, billing … anything you can learn about the revenue cycle, including coding, is going to be helpful in your job,” her mentor explained.

Certifications Sharpen Skills and Open Doors

Moldovan took her mentor’s advice, and in 2009, received her CPC® certification. “That was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life … I feel like that was really the beginning of my career,” she exclaimed. “It did 100 percent help” her to be much better at her job. The knowledge gained provided her with a great foundation that enables her to be more precise and better understand the appropriate verbiage to use with insurance companies and physicians. It “added such more dimension to what I was doing,” Moldovan said.

Next, she got the Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM®) credential. At the time, Moldovan was an account manager for a physician services organization. She was in charge of overseeing the revenue cycle for many clients, which included being the first line of communication with physicians and their offices. What drove her to pursue CPPM® certification was a desire to gain perspective and a better understanding of front-end work. In order to get everyone on the same page and working together to improve revenue, she needed to see the bigger picture. Moldovan wanted to learn what the staff was facing and how the front end and back end are interconnected.

That’s exactly what the CPPM® course and certification did. “It shows you how the front end and back-end tie together,” she stated. “How they can help each other and how they can hurt each other.” Moldovan explained to McKinley that the CPPM® certification ultimately helped her make wiser decisions and give better feedback to her clients. It made her a better employee. Plus, her employer agreed to cover the costs. Seeing the value this credential brought inspired Moldovan to seek additional credentials i

Follow This Sage Advice

Throughout the hour, McKinley and Moldovan fielded questions from the chat. Here are key takeaways and pro tips:

  • Be open to any job in the business of healthcare to get your foot in the door. It’s rare to get hired right after taking a certification exam, Moldovan explained. Newly credentialed individuals may need to consider starting somewhere else — billing, AR follow-up, registration — and work their way to coding. Her recommendation to anyone trying to break in, “Find your dream job at your dream company doing what you really want to do and then go to that company and see what other jobs they have that you can get your foot in the door … It’s going to be a stepladder.”
  • Network. “Get out to your AAPC local chapter and make relationships with other coders … You’re more likely to find a job from relationships you have than blindly sending in resumes,” said McKinley. Moldovan agreed, “It’s definitely who you know, not what you know.” Go to chapter meetings. “Make your connections, do your networking.”
  • Think outside the box to build your framework. Reach out to local organizations and temp agencies. “Make contact with coding departments and healthcare revenue cycle departments in your area. Build relationships and let them know who you are. Start building that foundation now while you’re studying,” said McKinley. “If you’re committed to this path, you’ll find a way.”
  • Get a professional to write your resume if you’re having trouble landing a job. “Tell them what your end goal is, and they will make your resume look so amazing and put forward the skills you want organizations to see,” Moldovan advised. Also important is practicing for interviews. Lack of confidence shows through, so make sure to run through a few practice rounds to gain confidence.

3 Pointers for Test-Takers

  1. Build a strong foundation of knowledge. Enroll in an AAPC course such as the CPC® Preparation Course. Review key coding concepts in AAPC’s study guides (e.g., Official CPC® Certification Study Guide). Moldovan says the study guides are packed full of “amazing information.” In fact, she has several study guides for specialties she’s worked in over the years, even though she didn’t pursue the certification because they are useful tools.
  2. Know how to take an AAPC exam. For example, use the process of elimination to narrow down answer choices.
  3. Remember, time management is crucial. Take advantage of AAPC’s practice exams such as the CPC® Online Practice Exams. They enable you to time yourself, refine your timing, and sharpen your test-taking skills.

Final Thoughts

AAPC is the go-to resource for all healthcare business professionals, Moldovan said as they wrapped up the hour. It’s not just for coders. “I encourage people to use the wonderful educational platform that AAPC has … the Knowledge Center and all the information that it has to help further their career. Keep networking and going to conferences. Career-wise, if you are doing anything within hospital revenue cycle, ambulatory revenue cycle, or physician revenue cycle, AAPC is such a great platform to help you move forward in that.”

“I have had lots of roles in my career. I’ve worked in every aspect of the physician revenue cycle. I’ve performed every single role, or I’ve managed it, and I’ve never regretted having that knowledge from the CPC® at all. It has definitely enhanced my career and helped me.”

Vanessa Moldovan, CPC, CPMA, CPPM, CPC-I

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