5 Minutes with... Karen Collins

BC Advantage (BCA): Tell us about your background and how you got started in the industry.
Karen Collins (KC):
I started coding about 13 years ago, when I was given the opportunity to work on claims follow-up at an OBGYN office. At that time I had no experience with billing, so I picked up an aging report and I began to call. After getting my first appeal paid, I knew that medical billing was going to be my career path. For the next 13 years I advanced my coding and billing career by accepting numerous job offers as Billing Managers for several specialties to include Pediatrics, Family Medicine and Internal Medicine. In 2005 my husband went to assist on a storm team with Georgia Power during Hurricane Katrina,9 months later I would become a mom again. After the birth of my son I felt I needed to find a job closer to my family and accepted a position as a Medical Biller for a Pain Management Practice, which was a step down from my Management Roles, but I was closer to home, little did I know this was going to give me a whole new list of opportunities. Over the past two years I have gained my CPMCS through PAHCS, CPC through AAPC, became a HFMA Co-Chair for the CFC, membership gained through AHIMA, placed on the editorial Board for BC Advantage Magazine and recently asked to assist on the Specialty Board for Pain Management for PAHCS. I can say taking the leap from Billing Manager to Medical Biller than promoted to Billing Coordinator was well worth it.

BCA: Professionally speaking, what would you consider to be your most valuable asset?
My best asset would be my ability to multitask while maintaining accuracy and consistency.

BCA: You have 2 certifications through 2 different associations what do you feel that they give you? Would you consider adding to them and if so which one(s) do you think would be relevant for you?
Each one of my certifications has a different meaning to me, my CPC through AAPC was my first certification and it proved to me and my employers that I had the knowledge to assist with coding decisions for the practice. Once I obtained my CPMCS through PAHCS I was able to become a decision maker in my specialty of Pain Management because not only did it prove my coding knowledge again, it showed I had the knowledge needed for Pain Management billing as well. I just recently completed testing for the CCS-P through BMSC and plan to take the COBGCS with PACHS in the fall.
BCA: How do you plan staying informed about the industry during your hiatus?
I have been networking and staying informed through forums and newsletters. I receive up to date information on BCA's website and try to sign up for listserves. Recently my main source of information has come from the recent people I have met while scheduling the meetings for my local AAPC Chapter Meetings.

BCA: What is your passion in life?
My passion in life is to focus on my family and expand my knowledge in the medical industry. I love revenue management and handling appeals, so I am seeking tools to gain knowledge on those fields to advance my career.

BCA: What have you enjoyed most about your career?
What I have enjoyed most about my career is the different challenges each job has required of me. I have learned each practice, physician and hospital are different about there billing techniques, The challenges of finding new ways to accommodate each physician, manager, clients needs is what keeps me intrigued.

BCA: When managing staff, how would you describe your management style?
As a manager I like to provide motivation and allow the staff to help make decisions. Ultimately the decisions are up to the management team, but I feel involving the staff in changes or decisions allows them to feel included. I give praise for accomplishments, and I try to teach when mistakes are made, instead of placing blame. I have found in doing this employees have a greater respect for the management team and they also take pride in there work.

BCA: You are involved with your local AAPC chapter as an Officer. What does that do for you personally and professionally?
Personally being involved in the local chapter has allowed me to network with a great group of people, such as BC Advantage and PAHCS, Professionally it has given me the credibility I need to expand my career in coding and billing.

BCA: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
My best advice would be to gain all the knowledge you can from classes, medical articles and stay in touch with all the other coders you meet, they will become great resources for the future. Also stay positive, no matter how may certifications you hold there's always companies who want more. As a Hiring Manager I hired based on credentials held but I also preferred newly certified coders for certain positions because they brought a new prospective to the organization.

BCA: If you could be doing anything else - what would that be?
I would love to gain more knowledge in Revenue Management and seek a career in Auditing and finding new ways to increase profitability through new technology.

BCA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to have completed my Masters and have my own nationally recognized Revenue Management Company.

BCA: Anything you would like to add?
I would love to find a way to educate our physicians about how important credentials are when it comes to hiring auditors to perform reviews.