5 Minutes with... Shannon Smith, CPC, CPC-I, CEMC, CMSCS, CPMA

BC Advantage (BCA): Tell us about yourself and how you started in this industry.
Shannon Smith (SS):
I have always been in the healthcare industry, with the exception of a 3-month stint that I worked for my dad in the construction industry. During that time I realized that I really missed healthcare. I started off working in an ER as a patient liaison. From there, I went to Respiratory Therapy school and while earning my degree I worked for an Urgent Care Facility. The Urgent Care was a great basis as it allowed me to work the front desk, work as an MA, and since we had residents working in the clinic- they were eager to teach and I learned so much.

After graduating from Respiratory Therapy school I worked in that industry and enjoyed the patient care side. I worked in a hospital setting for some time, but then had the opportunity to work for home health. It's wonderful to go into someone's home and be the only person they might see that day- it was truly rewarding. While there, I started working in the billing and coding side as we had an AR through the roof and my employer was desperate for help. A national chain purchased my home health company and my position was eliminated. I was blessed with a job with an organization that did billing for 500 physicians at a teaching institute.

At this job I started out doing claim rejection work, and one day someone said- you know if you take this internal test on coding and pass you can move up. That was very interesting to me, and when they further told me that all of the answers were found in a book (CPT/ICD-9) I decided the worst thing I could do was fail. I passed and moved to a new position. This started the coding/auditing phase of my career, as I was responsible for coding and auditing every encounter for 6 providers and teaching them why their codes were changed. This was my big push; from there I immersed
myself into reading Medicare manuals on the weekends and taking every learning opportunity that passed my way. From that background I have now found myself in a wonderful job in which I can utilize all of the skills I have acquired over the years. I am now a Consult in the Coding/Auditing side of the healthcare industry. I am fortunate to get to travel all over the country performing audits, teaching all types of coder/billers and physician, and speaking on National circuits.

BCA: Professionally speaking, what's your passion?
I truly enjoy the educational aspect of my job. I like to teach and see what I call the "light bulb factor." You know, when you're teaching and see someone's face light up because they get it! That's empowering. Another passion is not just going into a practice and finding the weak spots, but developing the game plan for strengthening the practice. I am very passionate about my work and very goal oriented. If I set a goal - I am going to do everything in my human power to obtain it- and if you tell me I cannot- that's more fuel to my fire!

BCA: In your opinion, what kind of person do you need to be to become a successful speaker?
Someone who is not afraid to get up in front of a room full of people and be willing to say, "I need to research that." We cannot all be know it all in every aspect of healthcare, and when you realize that no one expects you to, it empowers your ability to stand before a group. On the flip side, it also motivates you to learn more, reach outside your area of expertise and increase your knowledge base.

BCA: You travel a lot in your role. What the highs and lows of being on the road so much?
People would expect me to say that the lows are the airlines, truthfully when you travel so much you learn to roll with the punches of airline delays and airport food- and you get to know what gift shops are in what airports (LOL- yes I like to shop!) The lows of course are my kids. I have a 13 and 11 year old (Spencer and Sarah) and I have been traveling for about the past 5 years of their lives and we have all learned to adapt. But when you miss the school parties and the spelling bees, that's when the lows creep up. The highs come when I feel like I did get work for my client. I recently had an opportunity to work with a practice and find a great solution to turn it around - for me that was an adrenaline rush! If I didn't travel - I wouldn't have those moments.

BCA: You recently spearheaded a new industry certification. What was your intention behind it and how do you get something like that off the ground?
I created the certification because I saw it as a natural progression of a biller/coders career - maybe because that's how I started. Typically one starts as a front desk employee, moves to billing, then coding, but what is the next step? The AAPC saw the need to give a certification to coders, and that certification authenticated that they were "experts" in their industry. I felt the same was needed in the auditing industry as well. Getting it off the ground was no easy task. It took the backing of our parent company, DoctorsManagement, and their 50+ years of experience and financial backing to make it possible. You know the old saying, "hard work and preservation"- that's it in a nutshell. When no one believed that this certification would launch to its highest, I still believed and pushed to make it happen.

BCA: What's 2010 hold for you?
The promise of growth. Now that the AAPC recognized NAMAS and we have now partnered with them in the CPMA certification endeavor, I see an opportunity to be able to reach out to more coders on a National basis and encourage them to take the next step in their careers. I am also working to launch another certification program in 2010-it's a secret! More information
to come soon...

BCA: Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Since my boss may see this article, I guess I shouldn't say sitting in his chair! As I stated before, I am a goal setter. When I accepted this job my first goal was to one day be running the department - accomplished! My next goal was to launch NAMAS nationally - accomplished! I then set my sights on partnership status with my firm - accomplished! I now want to grow my staff and our organization into one of the nation's top healthcare consulting firms. Not in order to become rich and famous but because I truly believe that our team at DoctorsManagement has a heartfelt commitment to our clients to help. We are not the type of firm to come in take your money and leave YOU a plan to implement. We see where the healthcare industry is headed and want to make our client's benefit in a completely ill industry.

BCA: Anything to add?
I tell my daughter all of the time, you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. The motto at her school is "Hard work pays off"- I cannot say it any better. You only get out what you put in, and my advice to anyone wanting to be successful in this industry is to immerse yourself in knowledge. Read everything you can and step outside your comfort zone in order to challenge yourself. The only person holding you back- is you.