AAPC Members Conquer Coding
AAPC Members Conquer Coding
By Sheri Poe Bernard, CPC
MINNEAPOLIS–With a membership that has swelled to more than 16,000 this year, it’s no wonder that the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) broke its own records for attendance at its eighth annual conference held in Minneapolis May 22-25.
Trumpeting the theme, “Conquer Cod-ing,” the conference drew nearly 1,700 attendees, there to hear the latest in coding and reimbursement, compliance, and practice management by attending any of the 64 breakout sessions offered.
As part of its pre-conference agenda, the AAPC administered tests to 120 attendees for accreditation as certified professional coder (CPC), and for certified professional coder-hospital (CPC-H). Since AAPC was founded in 1988, more than 8,000 members have passed its rigorous five-hour proficiency exam.
Also submitting to testing at the conference were 76 professionals who teach the AAPC Professional Medical Coding Cur-riculum (PMCC), and seek the new “AAPC Approved Instructor” designation. The instructor approval program includes both oral and written examinations.
The final pre-conference event was a specialty networking session, in which more than 20 specialties were represented. Coders brought their most difficult reimbursement questions for roundtable discussions with peers and experts.
The official conference kick-off started with keynote speaker Gary Bradt, PhD, a clinical psychologist and motivational speaker who provided points on strengthening leadership abilities and was followed with a welcome from Terrill Curtis, the AAPC executive administrator.
With 64 breakout sessions to choose from, attendees were provided with topics including coding for highly specialized subspecialties such as skull base surgeries, pain management, radiation oncology and burns. Other, broader subjects at the conference included ambulatory payment classifications (APCs), Internet resources, Medicare, chart auditing, National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) requirements, compliance and ICD-10 coding systems.
Celeste Kirschner, who sits on the Editori-al Panel of the American Medical Associa-tion (AMA), outlined the group’s CPT-5 project. Sessions were identified as basic, ad-vanced, hospital-specific or physician-lead, to help attendees choose the presentations most appropriate to their professional needs.
Tuesday evening opened the exhibit hall with a reception that brought attendees together with the latest products and services specific to coding-related issues.
On Wednesday afternoon, local chapters from around the country set up tabletop displays to tout their accomplishments and encourage membership participation. The AAPC currently has 209 local chapters, providing member support with continuing education, exam proctoring and a wonderful source of networking.
Later that evening, hundreds of attendees boarded AAPC buses to visit the Mall of America, the largest shopping center in the United States. Footsore, they returned hours later, burdened with shopping bags from the nation’s major retailers.
The awards banquet, held Thursday, began with a bit of magic as AAPC National Advisory Board president Susan Garrison lead everyone in a cheer that ended with the luncheon hall raining confetti on its membership.
Barbara “BJ” Johnson, CPC, AAPC National Advisory Board member from California, was named Coder of the Year for 1999. One nomination letter read, in part, “I wish you had coder of the century, because she is the person I would vote for;” another called her “a walking textbook of codes.” Johnson has clocked more than 30 years as a coder.
Barbara J. Cobuzzi, CPC, CHBME, from New Jersey, was named Networker for 1999 at the conference. Cobuzzi has worked in coding and reimbursement for eight years. One of her nomination letters noted her work in local chapter development and another said that she “freely shares information with her colleagues.”
Several new AAPC National Advisory Board members were announced during the convention as well: Frank Chisena, CPC, director of educational programs for The Roxbury Institute for Medical Management in New York; Laurie Castillo, CPC, CPC-H, owner of Physician Coding & Compliance Consulting in Virginia; Gaylynn Kelso, CPC, of Sylacauga Family Health Care, Sylacauga, AL; Lynda Munsey, CPC, of Nemours Children’s Clinic of Jacksonville, FL; Vickie Balistreri, CPC, of Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City, MO; Quinten Buechner, CPC, president of ProActive Consultants in Wisconsin; Cheryl J Thompson, CPC, CPC-H, of Pricewater-houseCoopers in Georgia; Marsha Diamond, CPC, of Medical Audit Resource Services in Florida; and Ellen North, CPC, CPC-H, of Inter-mountain Health Care in Utah.
Two changes were made among the officers for the AAPC National Advisory Board. Faith Marie Hope, CPC, CCS-P, of Shared Medical Systems in Delaware replaces Jeri Harris, CPC, CPC-H, of Palmetto Med-Code Specialties in South Carolina. Due to unprecedented growth at AAPC, membership services have been split into two positions. Cheryl Schad, BA, CPC, of Schad Medical Manage-ment in south New Jersey will cover AAPC’s 209 local chapters, and Judy Brueker, CPC, CCAP, CCS-P, of Medical Reimbursement Services Inc. in Michigan, will continue to serve membership in all other capacities. Susan Garrison, CPC, CPC-H, CCS-P, CPAR, of Hyatt 3M in Georgia will continue as president, and Georgette Gustin, CPC, CCS-P, of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Indiana, will continue as president-elect.
As a grand finale to this year’s conference, a sequin-suited “Elvis” gyrated wildly among the rowdy crowd while singing “Viva Las Vegas,” in a promotion of next year’s conference, “Win with Coding,” slated for April 1-4, 2001, at the Rio Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Attendees agreed that “Conquer Coding” surpassed all past AAPC conferences, both in curriculum and organization. They headed back to their hotels, anxious to make their plane connections and trailing bits of confetti on the bottoms of their shoes. By the end of the day, the skywalk system of downtown Minneapolis was sprinkled colorfully throughout. The coders had left their mark on the City of Lakes. *
Sheri Poe Bernard, director of essential regulatory products for Ingenix Publishing Group, oversees development of ICD-9-CM, ICD-10 and HCPCS products for Medicode and St. Anthony Publishing. She has been in the coding and reimbursement business for eight years.
American Academy of Professional Coders
Eighth Annual Conference