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Are You up to Code? How to Burnish Your Skills at the Joint Meeting

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One of the most difficult things for a young ophthalmologist starting out in practice is the confusing world of coding. You have years of training in the science of ophthalmology, but little to none on the business side of medicine.

The reality is medicine is a business, and with the recession and downturned economy, knowing that business is more important than ever. Proper coding is the key to not only receiving the full reimbursements you are entitled to, but also avoiding costly penalties.

Whether you need a crash course or just a quick coding review, the Academy’s Joint Meeting has something for you.

Coding Camps
The coding camps presented by the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE) are some of the more intensive coding offerings at the meeting. AAOE offers two coding camps this year, depending on your expertise.

“Coding Camp for Beginners” is ideal for anyone with three years or less experience in coding. “It gives a great core foundation regarding coding and reimbursement and should be considered mandatory for all YOs in their first years of practice,” says AAOE’s executive director Donna Lock. “YOs must know how to code.”

For those of you with a bit more coding experience, there will also be a second, more advanced coding camp this year. In this course, there will be a bit of a review, but it will mostly cover a “day in the life” of an ophthalmic clinic. Expect a faster pace and several case scenarios.

Both courses are moderated by the same amazing panel. All participants have at least 25 years of experience and represent a variety of practices, including university-based, small, large and multi-specialty practices. There will also be two surgeons on hand to give their account of surgical care in all cases.

Other “Can’t Miss” Courses
While the coding camps are more comprehensive, AAOE also offers several topical coding courses. Lock and the Academy’s coding executive Sue Vicchrilli recommend that YOs definitely include at least four other courses in their meeting schedule.

  1. Deciphering Financial Reports for the Young Ophthalmologist. This course helps you read financial statements in order to identify signs of trouble. It can also help you make good decisions as to whether to accept an offer to buy-in or when presented with other investment opportunities, such as a surgical center or optical shop.
  2. United States vs. Ophthalmologist: You Judge. Taught by an attorney, this course has received rave reviews in past years.
  3. Internet Marketing Strategies for Ophthalmology. With YO committee chair Andrew Doan, MD, leading this course, it is sure to be fun as well as informative.
  4. Ultimate Chart Audit. This course will examine how a third-party payer and/or auditor would look at a chart. Plus, Ann Menke from OMIC will weigh in on risk management, offering a perspective from the malpractice viewpoint.

These are just a few of the amazing courses AAOE offers for young ophthalmologists. You can search for these courses and more using the Joint Meeting Online Program.

Free AAOE Resources
In addition to the above-mentioned courses, AAOE also offers a wide variety of free courses and programs during the meeting. Two of the free courses (“2010: A Coding Odyssey” and “Ophthalmology Coding A–Z”) are particularly helpful in unraveling the complex world of coding.

There are also several open discussions on topics such as creating a culture of excellence, electronic health records, and benchmarks to improve your practice. Plus, there are three different interactive discussions that focus specifically on academic, mid-sized, and large practices.

Additionally, AAOE coding staff will be at the Academy Resource Center on the exhibit floor throughout the meeting to answer any questions you may have. View other highlights of AAOE's Joint Meeting offerings for YOs.

A Coding Bonus
As an added bonus, Vicchrilli will be presenting during the YO Program. With years of experience and unique perspective, she is well-suited to making coding not only understandable, but even, dare I say, enjoyable. 

Vicchrilli will be presenting frequently asked coding questions and their answers. The Academy receives upwards of 4,000 questions every year. She will share several of these and how you can avoid many of the most common coding errors and get reimbursed correctly in the first place. The questions will cover comprehensive ophthalmology as well as specialties.

Want a preview of AAOE’s course offerings? Handouts and audio from nine of last year’s courses are on the AAOE Web site (Academy login required).

Be sure you are up to code in 2010. Be sure to take full advantage of all the coding courses and learning opportunities available to you at this year’s meeting.

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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and a frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and ghost writer of Eat Papayas Naked.