Tune in for some words of wisdom from a coding professional.
During a Facebook Live broadcast, Aug. 11, moderator and AAPC Social Media Manager Alex McKinley (AAPC Alex) talked to Jean Pryor, CPC,CPCO, CPB, CPMA, CPC-I, CRC, CIMC, CCS-P, CHAP, AAPC Fellow about her coding career.
Pryor is a long-time AAPC member with more than 34 years of medical coding and billing experience. Her impressive career includes working as a coder and auditor, reviewing Medicare Advantage data for hierarchical condition categories, risk adjustment, secondary payments, and duplicative payments. She is currently the administrator of central billing office (CBO) compliance at St. Elizabeth Physicians, a group practice with more than 600 physicians and approximately 25 specialties.
My AAPC credentials have helped me immensely in getting ahead in the business of healthcare.
Words of Wisdom
Pryor didn’t get where she is today by waiting for opportunities — she seeks them out. And she’s never let a little thing like inexperience stand in her way of her career.
Her medical coding career began in the 1980s. “I sent out probably thousands of resumes. Even if it said they needed experience, I sent it anyway,” Pryor recalled. She got a call from a billing company “without any experience in medical billing and coding,” she admits. She was put to work on workers comp claims with no training.
Some 10 years later, she went on to work for a private practice. In 1994, she learned of AAPC and asked her employer to send her to the Nashville conference to get her certification. She signed up for a half-day course and then took the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) exam the next day. She passed!
Back then, AAPC had 985 members and offered two credentials. Today, there are 212,305 members and 28 credentials. Times have changed, but Pryor still believes her job search tactics are viable in today’s job market. “Even if they say they want experience, send [your resume] anyway,” she said.
Overcome the “No Experience” Barrier
Many novice coders say they can’t get a job without experience, and they can’t get experience without a job. There are organizations, however, that are looking for medical coders with or without experience. Pryor said about her employer, “We will take you in and we will get you certified.” Certain positions in her organization require certification within seven months of hire. Others don’t require certification at all, but “if you want to progress and go higher in a tier, one of the exams is required,” Pryor said.
Pryor attests that her credentials have helped her “immensely in getting ahead in the business.” She went from working in the field as a coder to an office manager to owner of medical coding and billing consulting and education center for 12 years. Then, she went in another direction. That’s the great thing about coding. “I tell my students that even when they become a certified coder, they’re not siloed into that role,” said Pryor, who is also a virtual instructor led training (VILT) instructor for AAPC. “This role leads to other opportunities. You can go into auditing, consulting, other aspects of revenue cycle, claim denials. You can do so much with that certification.”
Pryor is proof of that! When she wanted to get into education, she got the Certified Professional Coding Instructor (CPC-I®) credential (now called AAPC Approved Instructor). When she started as the administrator for auditors at her organization, she got her Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA®) credential.
Future Career Prospects for Coders
As the industry evolves and new opportunities arise, Pryor continues to earn new credentials.
“In my organization, I see risk adjustment taking off,” Pryor said. “I think that is the way of the future as far as compensation and keeping offices afloat.” She’s since earned her Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC™) to aide her with auditing risk adjustment coding.
Most recently, Pryor earned the Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO™), which she needed for her role as administrator of CBO compliance.
Leadership Opportunities Abound
Pryor also sits on the AAPC National Advisory Board (NAB) for Region 6 – Great Lakes. With the 2018-2021 NAB coming to a close, they are taking applications for new members. Leadership qualities are generally required, but Pryor recommends anyone who wants to be involved in launching new and innovative processes for members to apply.
“You’ll meet a great bunch of people,” Pryor said. “You will become educated, as well, because there are so many knowledgeable experts you will have contact with.”
McKinley asked Pryor why she joined the NAB. “I wanted to make a difference,” Pryor said. “I wanted to help students.” She’s been an AAPC curriculum instructor for about 17 years and has also held many officer roles for her local chapter. She plans to run for a seat on the AAPC Chapter Association Board of Directors in the future.
AAPC’s Social Hour airs biweekly. You can watch past broadcasts on Facebook Live. And don’t miss the next social hour on Aug. 25.