Talk Ten Tuesdays contributor Laurie M. Johnson has just about seen it all during a long career in the fields coding and consulting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Laurie Johnson is a longtime contributor to ICD10monitor and Talk Ten Tuesdays. You can hear her live reports during the latter every Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST.

I began my healthcare career before I even graduated from high school. Like many high school girls, I volunteered as a candy-striper at the local hospital. I found out through this experience that I was not cut out for direct patient care. My mother worked in the local hospital’s medical record department as an admission clerk, and one day she introduced me to her boss. She talked with me about the type of work she did, and it sounded interesting to me, as I enjoyed reading and was intrigued by the prospects of a career in the medical field.

I was accepted at the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate degree, and completed the required two-year distribution of studies before I could begin the Health Records Administration (HRA) program. I learned during my time in the HRA program that I really enjoyed coding. In fact, I completed my senior project on Diagnosis-Related Groups (DRGs) while they were being piloted by New Jersey. I had some wonderful mentors in that program who believed in participating in professional associations. I still stay in touch with some of my classmates from Pitt. I should also note that my father was very active in his professional association, so he was a good role model in that vein as well.

Obtaining that first job was not so easy. I interviewed at many places, including hospitals and a long-term psychiatric facility. My first job was as the Assistant Director of Medical Records at a large teaching hospital. My responsibilities included managing tumor registry, chart analysis and completion, and coding. It was a great place to start, and then I moved on to directing a medical record department at a small hospital in Delaware.  

I wanted to pursue further education, so I returned to the University of Pittsburgh and obtained my master’s degree in Health Information Systems (HIS). I worked as a part-time coder to pay my way through graduate school. My career then took a turn to the electronic side of medical records. I became a product specialist, whereby I wrote functional specification for an abstracting product. It was a great use of my education, but I reached further, and focused on installation and training. That position taught me that I really enjoy education and writing. Another job taught me that I could combine my love of coding with education – and so I became a coding auditor.

I am currently working as a Senior Consultant for a revenue cycle company that performs revenue cycle assessments. Included in my activities is interim management, coding audits, chargemaster reviews, and coding education. I also participate in Talk Ten Tuesdays broadcasts on a weekly basis, and provide some coding or documentation insight.

I have been active with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) since I became an undergrad. At the local association, I have assisted with planning education sessions and have been a frequent presenter. The University of Pittsburgh named me the Most Distinguished Health Information Management (HIM) Alumnus in May 2017. At the state level, I have held committee chairmanships and a director position, and then in 2014 I became President of the Pennsylvania Health Information Management Association (PHIMA). One of our notable achievements at PHIMA was the creation of the ICD-10 Initiative, through which we created learning modules for ICD-10-CM/PCS, as well as an education strategy for the state. I am proud to say that PHIMA named me a Distinguished Member in 2017. At the national level, I have been the co-chair for the Classification and Clinical Terminology and Clinical Documentation Integrity Practice Councils, as well as participated in a thought-leadership group. In 2013, I became a Fellow of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). I have never regretted my involvement with AHIMA and its subsidiaries.

Programming Note: Listen to Laurie Johnson’s Talk Ten Tuesdays Coding Report this coming Tuesday on Talk Ten Tuesdays, 10 a.m. Eastern.

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