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JustCoding's September 2018 Member Spotlight - Mary Ann Polantz

September 1, 2018

This month we are pleased to introduce Mary Ann Polantz, RHIT, CCS, CCDS, who has 34 years of experience in coding and 45 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Mary Ann is currently a consultant at CBIZ KA Consulting Services, LLC, located in East Windsor, N.J.

Why did you get into this line of work? My career started out in medical records in 1972 in the file section of Lee Hospital in Johnstown, P.A. From there I advanced to coding in 1984. At that time, I decided to enroll in the American Medical Record Association Independent Study program in medical record technology which led to me receiving my Accredited Record Technician certification in 1987. In 1988 I moved to Pittsburgh, P.A. to pursue my coding career and secured a job at Shadyside Hospital.

After three years as a coder, I became the lead coder in 1991. This is where I gained the experience and expertise in coding that secured me a position at CBIZ KA Consulting. I have been with CBIZ for 18 years and have since received my CCS and CCDS credentials. Coding from the start was something I knew would be my lifelong career. And, as I approach those golden years, I don’t foresee hanging it up any time soon.

What has been your biggest professional challenge? My biggest challenge was probably the transition from working in a hospital setting to working in the consulting environment. For almost the first ten years of my employment with CBIZ, I traveled on a weekly basis. Since the launch of the electronic medical record, it has enabled me to do my reviews from the comfort of home and has decreased my travel tremendously. 

What has been most rewarding about your job? Working with our clients to ensure accurate ICD-10-CM/PCS coding while recovering the revenue they may be leaving on the table. Since joining CBIZ, my focus has been on developing ICD-10-CM/PCS auditing specs to identify vulnerable coding areas to aid in the process of our coding reviews. With our data analytics, we are able to focus on those accounts that have a likely risk for under- or overcoding. These cases could represent compliance issues or revenue shortfalls. I also participated in the development of an automated Patient Tracker Database that will track trends in coding errors through our review process to improve MS-DRG assignment.

What is your favorite area of coding and why? I have to say that my favorite area of coding is ICD-10-PCS which is indeed challenging. It represents quite a difference from ICD-9 procedure coding. Many coding specialists have become very familiar with the existing ICD-9 codes and perhaps even having these codes memorized (me included).

ICD-10-PCS has the potential to provide better data for evaluating and improving quality of care. Not to mention, it offers greater specificity and increased ability to accommodate new technologies and procedures. Its alphanumeric format provides a better structure than ICD-9, allowing ample space for future expansion. ICD-10-PCS requires a degree of problem-solving and complex decision making. The root operation may be the most difficult aspect of ICD-10-PCS because physician documentation does not always relate to the PCS definition.

To be honest, I thought by the time ICD-10-CM/PCS was implemented, I would be retired. But low and behold, it happened, and I was not ready to retire just yet. So, along with all my fellow coding specialists, we had to be optimistic and embrace the challenge. It’s been a few years and we are still surviving.

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