May 20, 2015
5 Minutes with
BC Advantage (BCA): Can you tell us about yourself and how you got started in the healthcare industry?
Lorri Tolliver (LT): I obtained my first job in the medical field in 1984 with a local chiropractor who was willing to sit and train me in billing for his services and providing therapeutic treatments to patients. I really owe my career to this doctor. Eventually, I moved into Orthopedic Surgery and continued in the medical field in billing through several different specialties along the way. I heard about the CPC so I reviewed the AAPC website, ordered the practice exams, studied, and passed the test. That was a life changing, defining moment as it increased my income considerably and opened doors that I couldn't have had open otherwise.
After this, I got myself involved with my local Orlando AAPC Chapter, was asked if I would not only run as an officer, but I was nominated as the upcoming President. I was hesitant but agreed if a friend stayed on as Vice President to help me. I am now in my second year as President.
BCA: You started out as a financial coordinator/billing supervisor and progressed to owning your company as a Physician/Coder consulting for E & M and Documentation. How hard/easy would you say that was and what made you want to further your career into this position?
LT: I did start out as the Financial Coordinator/Billing Supervisor at a Fertility Clinic, which I loved very much, but it just seemed to be the natural progression of growing as a coder, I went into positions that were more targeted as coding specific. Along the way, I was given the opportunity to work remotely from home for Tactical Management, LLC. The contract was for a Pediatric Hospital in Florida and we currently code 13 specialties. I've learned so much by working the coding project that it helped me to ready myself for the CPMA and CEMC. This gave more credibility to my abilities to the physicians that I would then consult and train.
I remained as a remote coder in Cardiology and soon moved to Orthopedics. Within seven months, I was promoted to Lead Remote Coder and later was given responsibility as Manager of the remote coding team. My team has 9 full time coders, 1 part time coder and 2 specialty specific auditors that work part-time to assist me with the many audits that we are required to undergo yearly.
Along the way I had begun to teach Evaluation and Management workshops to not only my coding team and the chapter members but also to individuals who came to my home for one-on-one training. I think the most difficult thing is getting exposure to a huge medical community but I connect with as many people as I can through social media and speak at events as much as I can. I love what I do and I love to help people.
BCA: How do you maintain your daily duties being a Physician/Coder Consulting for E/M Documentation, Manager of a Remote Coding Team and also the AAPC local chapter President?
LT: It is such a challenge, some days more than others. I also serve at my church and try to have a fun personal life with my husband of 24 ½ years, one remaining high school student, 4 older children and 4 grandchildren. So, certainly I have a full schedule.
I take one day at a time and try to be careful to add items to my calendar. My work with Tactical Management is very rewarding but it is full time day hours and some evenings spent answering questions from coders. On occasions, I've held late night meetings for the coders who work opposite hours as the rest of the team. When we are involved with certain projects, it requires additional time to complete, especially audits, since they require a high level of accuracy and detail. I have an amazing Team Lead and hospital liaison who I work very closely together with to ensure quality work is provided and completed on time.
I work almost daily coordinating with my other chapter officers after accessing the week or month in advance. I just have to take one meeting at a time and put thought to what is needed, whether it is to confirm the speaker or send out email blasts about the event, begin registration processes and take payments. I push myself to do big things for our members and sometimes it seems impossible but we'll never achieve what we don't at least strive for.
In between all of that, I add in nights or weekends for training with coders one-on-one, or two or three together or with physicians and their practices. I love to work with physicians to help them improve their documentation because ultimately it will minimize their audit risk, it will help the coders to better extrapolate information to more accurately apply the codes and all of this will increase and/or help avoid lost revenue. In my opinion, it is so important for physicians and coders to work together, come into a closer center of agreement and understanding. I want to foster the relationship between the two as they need one another.
BCA: Being a local chapter President, can you give us a breakdown of what that your position requires, entails you to prepare and set up for your chapter members?
LT: As the President, I am required to be a CPC and must maintain a current AAPC membership as well as keep current with the required CEU's each year. I am also required to attend all local chapter meetings unless excused. As a chapter, we're required to hold a certain number of chapter meetings and tests and at least one workshop per year. We far exceed the requirements since our industry is ever changing and there is much to bring to the members monthly, sometimes weekly.
The Orlando chapter holds monthly meetings one night a month and workshops on the weekends. We have a set location that we rent space for our monthly meetings. We set up a projector and laptop and ensure the presentation is accessible. We set up a table for drawing gifts. We give away about 4 - 5 drawing gifts each month and we also set up a coffee station and bring coolers of sodas and water each month. Our challenges come in trying to confirm our locations for the test review and actual testing sites and workshops. We provide opportunities for 7 CPC Test Review classes and 7 exams throughout the year. I assist with teaching these review classes and proctoring the tests. I always want to provide educational training that keeps the members learning and interested and keeps our attendance growing. My goal as Chapter President has been to do bigger and better than the year before. It is very tiring at times since it is almost like another full time job but it is very rewarding as I see the members learning and networking with one another.
BCA: How would you describe a typical work day for you? LT: Some days are quiet, which gives some reprieve for me. Although, that can tend to make me concerned at what might come at any moment, usually from the client. As vendors, we have to be better than the best. We have to always comply with every rule or guideline that is handed down from the client even if we see their organization doesn't meet the same. Some days are extremely busy, with no time for lunch, back to back meetings online or by phone and answering 40 -50 emails per day. I spend the majority of my day communicating through email and phone with the Tactical Management office, the coders, our hospital liaison, hospital administrators and auditors. In addition, much time is spent researching coding guidelines to help with questions that may arise or for recoding and rebilling insurance denials. When the day is done, I feel satisfied knowing that I have such an awesome team of coders whom I trust to do what is not only ethically right but satisfactory to the client. It took a long time to get just the right coders that fit our needs and I'm proud that I don't have to worry whether they are doing what they are supposed to do as remote coders as they all work very hard and together helping one another.
BCA: With all that you have accomplished so far what would you say is the most important to you and why?
LT: The most important to me was the first step I took transitioning from a medical biller to becoming a CPC - Certified Professional Coder. Everything I do every day is important and very satisfying having obtained the CPMA and the CEMC but had I not taken that first step, I wouldn't be where I am now.
BCA: What teaching methods have been most effective for you when you are training a whole coding group versus one- on-one training?
LT: I think that training either way is effective. It's important to teach them first and then give them scenarios to apply it themselves through hands-on coding. When I trained people to use the medical software, most people were hands-on learners and just didn't get it watching me do it. I had to show them and then, put them to doing it themselves. This is the same way I teach coding. They have to have the understanding and then just jump in and do it, then practice, practice, practice. Once they've completed a few, I go over them and give the rationale. When they seem to get it, then give them even more challenging coding scenarios until their confidence is elevated.