Vol. 13 •Issue 10 • Page 29
AAPC Annual Conference Is an Island of Coding
April 13-16, 2003, Honolulu, Hawaii
HONOLULU—What better place to hold the 11th Annual Conference for the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) than Hawaii? With more than 1,200 participants, the conference was held at the Hawaii Convention Center, with the Hilton Hawaiian Village functioning as the host hotel.
Prior to the official conference activities, a training session was held to approve instructors for the Professional Medical Coder Curriculum (PMCC), which currently has more than 320 instructors across America and certain foreign countries. New and existing PMCC instructors could also register for a pre-conference session centered on teaching evaluation and management (E&M) coding guidelines, or an in-depth teach-the-teacher course on OB/GYN coding. The majority of students who enroll in the PMCC have no past coding education, and instructors must be prepared to teach these concepts “from the ground up.”
There was also a post-conference offering titled “Coding Compliance and the Law,” which was performed in collaboration with the Health Care Compliance Association. This comprehensive workshop included information on current regulatory trends, compliance as a profession and other issues surrounding investigations.
Candidates for the certified professional coder (CPC) and certified professional coderÐhospital (CPC-H) credentials were tested prior to the conference, giving them time after the examination to enjoy beautiful Wakiki beach or shop in the numerous gift and specialty stores. The AAPC currently has a membership totaling more than 30,000 with more than 17,000 members holding a coding certification.
The opening night festivities included an opportunity for local chapters to shine! While there are more than 300 local AAPC chapters, not all were able to obtain booth space to meet with the 2003 conference attendees. Many of those chapters attending, however, had small gifts for those who visited their table, including shell leis from the Hawaiian chapter. This local chapter also set a precedent by hosting a hospitality suite in the convention center and welcomed all attendees with a true “Aloha” spirit.
The official conference welcome became truly unforgettable when a group of Hawaiian dancers provided the official conch horn call-to-order, and performed a ceremonial chant accompanied by traditional dancing. Next, Annette Grady hosted “Who Wants to Be a Hawaiian Millionaire?” which was followed by 12 specialty networking sessions. Coders were encouraged to exchange business cards or other contact information with individuals in the same specialty, because networking is what it’s all about!
Conference Coding Sessions
This year’s keynote speaker, Barbara Mintzer, kicked off the conference with a dynamic presentation on “The Power of Vision.” Her entertaining and fast-paced introduction focused on “15-minute vision meetings” and provided step-by-step advice for finding the opportunities in change.
The AAPC national conferences draw individuals from a variety of coding professions: consultants, specialty coders, compliance auditors, health information management (HIM) directors, teaching facilities, the Veteran’s Administration and more! As a result, each national conference offers a variety of sessions to meet the needs of attendees. “Islands of Coding” was no exception, allowing participants to select classes from a total of 96 breakout sessions. These sessions were further assigned a classification, such as basic or advanced coding, basic or advanced facility coding, physician-led classes, compliance sessions, billing classes, payer-perspective breakouts, the VA (Veteran’s Administration) coding series and sessions of general interest.
In addition to those specialty coding and reimbursement classes normally expected as part of a coding conference, a session was offered on “Coding Travels Through Cyberland,” which was designed to help coders navigate the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Web site, as well as other regulatory resources online. Coders were also able to stay current with legal issues affecting the profession through a panel presentation by the AAPC Legal Advisory Committee, get the latest on HIPAA regulations, receive information on alternative medicine codes and pick up tips to enhance the communication between physician and coding staff.
Bridges were built in the session “Payers– Friend not Foe.” Discussion surrounded the loopholes and pitfalls of managed care contracting in another focused presentation, other sessions addressed structuring an internal audit, and coders could also select a session that discussed the benefits and problems associated with coding from home. In a general session on the second conference day, a representative of the American Medical Association (AMA) highlighted AMA activities in the private sector that identify and address unfair coding and reimbursement practices exercised by some health plans.
Part of the fun of conference attendance is visiting the exhibition hall to meet with vendors. “Islands of Coding” provided an opportunity to meet with nearly 40 individual companies, medical associations and organizations that sponsored booths. In addition to the wonderful free items and giveaways, coders had a chance to obtain information on new technologies, updated coding references, consulting services, seminars, newsletters and equipment that would appeal to individuals in medical coding professions. Conference attendees were treated to exhibitors with information on document management, coding software, specialty publications, support services, compliance resources, practice management, reimbursement solutions, temporary staffing, claims submission clearinghouses, coder education and training, job aids and regulatory publications.
It would be unfair to hold a conference in Hawaii and make it all work and no play! In addition to the tours individuals could schedule through the hotel or other local agency, the AAPC arranged for a luau on the last full conference day, which was attended by more than 1,200 coders and their families. Paradise Cove was selected for this event, and attendees were treated to all the food they could eat, traditional Hawaiian drinks, participation in island crafts and games, tattooing (temporary of course!), and a wonderful Polynesian show. The weather was perfect, the entertainment exceptional, and a good time was definitely had by all!
The saying goes that “All good things must come to an end,” but what an ending! The awards luncheon was held at the end of the conference, with the announcement of new AAPC National Advisory Board members: William Dacey, CPC, Brenda Chidister, CPC, Caral Edelberg, CPC, Deepa Malhotra, CPC, MS, Gay Boughton-Barnes, CPC, CCS, Kathy Graves, CPC, CPC-H, Kimberly Hatchie, CPC, Laureen Jandroep, CPC, CPC-H and Terri Gilbert, CPC.
In addition, the officers for the 2003-2004 National Advisory Board were presented: President Jeri Leong, CPC, CPC-H; President-elect Nancy Reading, RN, BS, CPC; Secretary Sheri Poe Bernard, CPC; Member Relations, Annette Grady, CPC, CPC-H; Member Relations, Barbara Cobuzzi, CPC, CPC-H; Local Chapter Relations, Robin Linker, CPC, CPC-H.
Congratulations to the new advisory board members and officers! If the national conference in Hawaii is any indication, the 2004 Cultivate Coding Conference in Atlanta April 4-7, 2004 shouldn’t be missed!
•.For more information, including the call for speakers for next year’s conference, visit the AAPC Web site at www.aapc.com.
Cindy C. Parman is a former member of the AAPC National Advisory Board and a faculty instructor for AMA Solutions. Her 29-year career in health care includes 20 years of commercial health insurance experience. She writes a coding column for the Journal of Oncology Management, serves as the consulting editor for Radiology Coding Alert and develops specialty coding education programs.