Qualls Helping FMH Cut Costs

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Linda Qualls, Certified Coding Associate for Fairfield Memorial, looks up coding information for her newest batch of hospital files.

WINNSBORO – It’s no secret that the future of Fairfield Memorial Hospital is up in the air and has been for a long time. As the hospital has struggled in recent years to stay afloat with County funds until it can work out a partnership with another health care facility, its problems and debt have mounted as solutions remained elusive.

But there are beginning to be some bright spots – new management, new board members and Linda Qualls.

Last year, Qualls, employed by the hospital for 12 years, with much of that time as a billing records clerk, took it upon herself to help the hospital save money, a lot of money, by becoming a certified billing and medical coder. This year the hospital is on track to save as much as $50,000 because of Qualls’ certification.

“Regulations and laws require that billing records be coded for us to get paid,” Karen Reynolds, Senior Director of Health Information at FMH, told The Voice. “Because we had no one in house to code our billing records, we’ve had to outsource that work at a significant cost every year. By becoming a certified coder, Linda has been able to take on many of those coding duties such as our new Mako Laboratory account claims, provide all coding and billing for our Blue Granite outpatient clinic and handle roughly fifty percent of all other medical coding needs within the hospital. What Linda has accomplished for the hospital is no small feat. She has earned both the Certified Coding Associate and the Rural Health Coding and Billing Specialist credentials. ”

Those certifications required course work at Midlands Technical College, various coding boot camps, independent study and sitting two national exams, Reynolds said. “I’m very proud and the hospital management is thankful for what Linda has done.”

The courses, training and certifications are regulated by the Association for Rural Health Professional Coding (APHPC), Office of Rural Health and American Health Information Management Association.

“There are certain nuances about Rural Health coding that are a little bit different than in a doctor’s office or a hospital,” Reynolds said. “So to understand those nuances and be certified to not only code, but bill as well, is a unique certification that not a lot of people have.”

Qualls told The Voice that she was hesitant, at first, to take the qualification classes, even though she knew she liked to code and had a natural knack for it.

“I was scared the classes would be too hard, but Karen really encouraged me,” Qualls said.

“My advice to her was ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained,’” Reynolds said. “I felt confident that she could do it.”

With a dedicated support system, Qualls pushed past her fears and finished her certification with flying colors. Now she says she feels like she’s accomplished something really big and is proud of herself for it.

“It really has made all the difference,” Qualls said.

Reynolds said that while the hospital has lowered its costs by no longer having to outsource most of its coding and billing paperwork, she doesn’t think the hospital will eliminate outsourcing coding and billing altogether.

“Those (coding) companies have 25-100 coders and so the advantage is having them as kind of our back up,” Reynolds said. “They can essentially code around the clock and on weekends. There’s great value in having both (in house and outsourcing),” Reynolds said.

For her part, Qualls says she is willing to help out however possible in the hospital’s struggle to not only survive but to thrive.

“I love this hospital. It’s like my home, and I’m glad to do what I can to save the hospital money and hopefully it will be here for years to come for the County’s residents,” Qualls said.

But for Qualls, her accomplishments are not a signal that it’s time to coast. She’s now working toward becoming certified on an even higher level.

“I’ve got one more level of certification that I’m studying for and it’s the highest level, a Certified Code Specialist,” Qualls said. “Hopefully, I’ll soon be able to set a date to take the test.”

And for Fairfield Memorial Hospital, that certification will likely mean even greater cost savings.

“It’s another positive step for our hospital,” Reynolds said.

Comments

  1. This is great.Linda , This proves you can do whatever you want to if you have the wanna .

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