5 Minutes with... Judy Wilson

BC Advantage (BC): Tell us about your background and how you got started in the industry.
Judy Wilson (JW):
I have been in the medical billing and coding industry for 27 years.  I have worked for Anesthesia Specialists, a group of nine cardiac anesthesiologists practicing at Sentara Heart Hospital for the past 17 years.  I began my career in billing and coding by filing Medicare claims for Chesapeake General Out Patient Hospital.  At the time I was working as a phlebotomist. One day I was checking the job postings and saw one for an Out Patient Medicare claims clerk.  I had no experience, but applied for the position anyway.  My supervisor, Mrs. Frances Trueblood gave me a chance to try this.  She is the reason I am in this field today.  Instructions? She gave me a CPT book and a stack of Medicare claims and told me to "bill 'em."

BC: The way your supervisor made you "find your own way" when you first started, do you think that this method helped or hindered you as a coder/biller?
I feel that because of Mrs. Trueblood's guidance and allowing me to make mistakes helped me greatly in gaining a more complete understanding of the billing and coding process, because everyone of the claims I first submitted to Medicare were REJECTED!  It was most definitely a learning experience.  After several attempts, and almost giving up and quitting, Mrs. Trueblood told me to "give yourself two weeks and you will be amazed at what you will learn."  She was right!  The claims stopped getting denied and I have loved what I do ever since!

BC: You've held 3 jobs since starting in the industry 20+ years ago, this can be viewed a negative and positive for some employers. As a supervisor what is your opinion when hiring someone to work for you?
When I am looking for someone to hire, I look for someone who has that certain ability to search out the reason for using a certain code and always question why one code is used over another.  The person I would hire would have to be or become certified as part of continuing employment.

BC: Holding a CPC, CMBS-I and teaching at the Bryan and Stratton college in Virginia Beach - what do you think is the most important things that someone new to the industry must know before stepping into a billing and/or coding role?
Any new biller or coder needs to understand the importance of becoming certified. They need to realize that it is on ongoing learning experience to bill or code correctly.  Things change rapidly in this field and one must stay current to be an effective biller/coder.  New billers or coders must understand that learning does not stop after you get the job.

BC: You currently hold multiple certifications with some well-known associations - what does this mean to you and what advantages do feel that you have by having them?
My certifications are very important to me and I feel that it shows that I continue to strive to be the best I can be at my job. I take pride in my CPC-I, CPC-H, CPC-P, and my CMBS-I.  I worked very hard for them.  The advantages to having the certifications are that it adds creditability to my knowledge and it shows that I am continuing to keep up with the rapid changes in our industry.

BC: Do you plan to add to the ones that you currently hold? If so, which ones do you think would be relevant for you?
If I were to add any other certification it would be a specialty certification in anesthesia through the AAPC.

BC: What is your passion in life?
I have several passions. I am passionate about my teaching and helping others obtain their certification and I have a great passion for special needs animals. 

BC: What advice would you give to those who say "Can't get a job without experience and can't get experience without a job"?
My advice to them, do not give up. I started with no experience and their lots of employers willing to give you a chance. I hired a student from my PMCC class and she has obtained her CPC-A.  They should get involved in their local chapters for billers and coders. Networking is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door; Our Local Chapter has seen several positions filled by new certified coders and/or billers in various medical fields.

BC: In your opinion what do you think about the prospect of a mandate stating that every physician office, billing and/or coding company must have a certified person doing the coding/billing?
I do believe that mandatory certification is going to be required nationally in the coming years. Personally, I believe that anyone working for a medical office, billing company or insurance company should be certified either prior to or as a condition of continued employment. 

BC: Anything you would like to add?
Remember to believe in yourself and get the education and become certified to add credibility and become an asset to your employer.