5 minutes with... Kathy Arner LPN, RHIT, CCS, CPC, CPMA, MCS

BC Advantage (BC): Tell us about yourself and how you got started in the industry.
Kathy Arner (KA):
I actually started my career in the Geisinger Health System in 1973 working in ICU. I really loved the work but wanted to do more and I wanted a day shift job to start a family. I started in Quality Improvement where I met Linda Sult who was an RHIT who introduced me to this new world of Medical Records, documentation and coding. I enjoyed it so much I took the correspondence course and went on to pass my RHIT. This began a career in the coding industry where I'm at now. I would never consider taking a position where coding was not involved. What better way to keep up on Anatomy and Physiology than by coding so I had the best of both worlds. I have had many positions where I have coded I/P, O/P, E/M, and Radiology records. I have Managed Coders, and love to start new programs. Organizing the E/M process for over 800 providers in the Geisinger Health System was a lot of work, but it was a wonderful learning experience. I started a Case Management process for Geisinger Health Plan (which is owned by the Geisinger System) and now I have been coding and auditing HCC Coding (Hierarchial Condition Coding). I'm just getting started in setting up a more in depth audit process for HCC's. I could go on and on of my experiences, the coding world is a wonderful place to be!

BC: What certifications do you hold and what benefits do you think that you receive from having them?
 LPN - Licensed Practical Nurse
RHIT - Registered Health Information Technician
CCS - Certified Coding Specialist
CPC - Certified Professional Coder
CPMA - Certified Professional Medical Auditor
MCS - Medical Claim Specialist
I plan very carefully what credentials will help me the most, I don't believe in having credentials just to have them. I feel I have worked hard for these credentials and I have put them to good use over the past 34 years in coding. Coding has brought me opportunities I never thought of when I first started. There are even more careers on the rise, so everyone should be keeping up with all of your coding skills.

BC: In addition to your role in at Geisinger Health Plan, you are also a volunteer delegate with PHIMA (Pennsylvania Health Information Management Association) and perform speaking engagements to businesses, chapter meetings etc in your area. How do you manage to fit it all in?
First of all I have a great husband who allows me to do the things I love to do. He knows I love volunteering for not only PHIMA as Delegate for AHIMA, but our local Association NEPHIMA - Northeast Health Information Management Association where I'm Coding Roundtable Chair and Nominating Chair (we are a small group at NEPHIMA and no one wants to volunteer) I also decided this year to be Co-Chair for the Professional Development and Recognition team for AHIMA. Yes there are times when I think I'm crazy, but I have such great friends, a great place to network and what an opportunity for education I just can't pass it up! I always have time for others. I love to share what I have learned through the years, to help anyone to get started like I was given that chance. Believe or not, I was very shy when I joined NEPHIMA, I would have never dreamed of getting up in front of a crowd. I have now spoken to a crowd of around 2,000 for E/M coding. (That was a bit scary)

BC: You are also in the midst of completing an ICD-10 training certificate with AHIMA. What are your plans once you have completed it?
Once I pass the final test, hopefully this week, I'm going to celebrate! I'm an adjunct faculty teacher at Penn College in Williamsport, so I want to be ready to teach the next class ICD-10 so they are ready to go. I would like to train anyone here at the Health Plan who would like to learn. I would love to teach our 2 granddaughters who are a little too small yet, like I did our Son and Daughter so they knew what I was talking about. Yes, I start them young! This is just a start of what can be done.

BC: The coding industry is a dynamic business. How do you keep yourself on top of the changes?
I read a lot - AHIMA journal, Advance, Coding Edge, For the Record and of course BC Advantage. I receive a lot of E-mails with updates from PHIMA and AHIMA. Review a lot of Medicare guidelines. By volunteering I learn a lot at conferences and from the people at those meetings.

BC: Insurance plans are perceived as the Big Bad Wolf in this industry, a necessary evil. What would you say to those who have nothing good to say about dealing with an insurance plan?
I have worked the Hospital, Professional and the Insurance Side of the business. I can honestly say when I worked in the hospital we blamed the insurance company for all of the requests we received. But from an insurance side I see something different - When claims are submitted there are a lot of errors on them that create more work for clinics and hospitals to correct. Coding staffs need to be more careful in what they submit. It's a little unusual for an insurance company but they allow me to go out to the State and Local meetings and give a presentation I have created called "From an Insurance Eye". With this presentation I share what I see and it helps to educate. I don't believe in seeing the same errors over and over. I need to find out why they are doing it that way. Most times it is because they just didn't know it was wrong.

BC: What is it that you like (or love) about your current position?
I love the flexibility. I get a lot of work done and currently I'm the only one doing it. I audit as much as I can, educate as much as I can, but unfortunately I'm only scratching the surface. Not only do I have Geisinger providers, but I also have over 5000 contracted providers that need audited. It is a huge system. I love that I can use all types of coding in my position.

BC: Any dislikes?
They could pay me more! Ha! I would really love to have more help, but isn't that what everyone wants?

BC: In your opinion what do you think will be the toughest issue that coders will face over the next year or two? 
They should be asking themselves - What coding position do I really want? I believe that there will be some really different opportunities when ICD-10 begins in October 2013.

BC: What would you consider is the highlight of your professional career? KA: Being Distinguished Member of PHIMA in 2009.  I have a wonderful family, a great husband of 36 years, 2 children who are happily married and have each given us a Granddaughter. Both Jim and my parents are celebrating 64 and 62 years of marriage this month and they both still love to babysit. Can't get any better than this!

BC: Anything to add?
We need to get out and educate those in the schools that they can make a career in coding. It's only boring if you make it boring. The sky is the limit with coding and with its many opportunities; you just need to get out there and find them.