A Day in the Life of a Coder

By Kindred Healthcare

In acknowledgement of Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI) Week, The Kindred Continuum speaks with Patricia Kerr, coder for Kindred Hospitals Louisville, Louisville at Jewish Hospital, Nashville and Dayton.

Patti, age 50, lives and works remotely in Crestwood, Kentucky.

KC: What is your daily schedule like?

PK: I usually log on by 8 a.m. First, I compile my daily reports for admissions and discharges, and update my ongoing lists. I also note any new procedures on the daily list provided by transcription. After assessing what admissions and discharges must be done that day in order to keep within department turnaround times, I prioritize my work for the day. I verify and update vent hours for patients that I’ve noted on admission, code admissions, discharges and procedures for each of my four facilities. I also check for new trackers and scans throughout the day.


 Coder, Patricia Kerr in her home office. Coder, Patricia Kerr in her home office.


KC: Where in your house do you work? Do you have a home office? Do you shut yourself off from the rest of the house?

PK: Yes, I have a separate home office, and live in a quiet neighborhood.

KC: How do you keep yourself from being distracted by things going on at home?

PK: I’m mostly home alone during work hours, so it’s quiet. I can close the door as needed.

KC: Do you have others living with you? Family? Are they ever a source of distraction?

PK: Yes, I live with my husband and teenage daughter, and they know not to interrupt when I’m working.

KC: How long have you been a coder?

PK: I’ve been coding for 27 years.

KC: What got you interested in doing it?

PK: My first job out of college was with a peer review organization, and it seemed to be my niche.

KC: Is everything done electronically? Materials are sent to you and you input everything right into program? How much of your time is spent on the phone?

PK: Yes, everything is done electronically. We do not have a printer available, which minimizes paper clutter as well as protects patient confidentiality. We do make coding calls to our facilities once a week to discuss any issues with patient accounts. Other than that, there is little time spent on phone calls. Most communication with facilities is via CMR (Centralized Medical Records) tracker, and most communication with management is via email.

KC: What job(s) did you hold before this one? What is your professional background?

PK: I started my career working for a peer review organization that had a contract with the state, working as a coder, and also as a supervisor. From there, I moved into a consulting position with a large corporation that managed hospitals where I traveled a fair amount doing DRG (Diagnosis Related Group) reviews, educating coding staff, and training new consultants. I then accepted a position with a small company that was a pioneer in remote coding.

I have associate and bachelor’s degrees from Eastern Kentucky University in Health Information Management, and am credentialed as a Registered Health Information Technician and Registered Health Information Administrator.

KC: What is the best part about your job?

PK: The flexibility. I’ve worked from home for over 12 years, and it seems to work well for our family.

KC: What is the most challenging part of your job?

PK: I’d say the biggest challenge is sometimes getting “cabin fever;” I try to make a point of getting outside, running an errand or going to the gym in the evenings.

KC: What would you tell someone who is interested in applying for a coding position?

PK: Go beyond learning to assign codes to diagnoses; learn and understand disease processes and their treatments, and it will make you a better coder.