The COVID-19 vaccine: Gratitude while coding

March 5, 2021 / By Jean Jones, CPC

I have a confession to make: I wasn’t always pro vaccines! My view of vaccination has changed since my son was a baby when I actually considered skipping his vaccinations after reading a book about the alleged toxicities.  I presented the information and the book to his pediatrician who put my mind at ease. Looking back, I can’t believe I would even consider not having my son vaccinated. Fast forward 11 years and I was overjoyed at the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine roll outs. 

As a coding analyst, I have been working with a client in Virginia who is almost done with their first phase of vaccine rollout. We have collaborated closely on documentation language patterns needed to optimize their computer-assisted coding software. The client’s coders have been working feverishly to keep up with the amount of vaccines that have been administered in their region. The next phase of their roll out will have better autosuggestion based on our efforts as well as the client’s. One tip for coders: Be careful with coding the administration of the first and second dose. In my work with clients, I have seen coders use the first administration code on the second vaccine administration. Visit the CMS website for more information about coding the COVID-19 vaccine.

I’m grateful to be working with clients on proper coding of the vaccine because it tells me my clients and the communities they serve are having success in getting people vaccinated. In my home state of Massachusetts, there have been obstacles to overcome. Seniors in particular have found it difficult to navigate the state’s confusing website for scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The vaccines are being distributed around Boston, including large vaccine delivery sites at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. While touring Fenway, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker commented on the obstacles, as reported in a local news story:

“I’m not happy with where we are. I know a lot of other people aren’t either… We have work to do, and we know that.

That work has already started with 120,000 new appointments being made available next week — including 55,000 at mass vaccination sites — and improvements made to the cumbersome sign-up process that left senior citizens exasperated.

Some help could be coming from expanding where people can get vaccinated.”

As I have been watching this story unfold, there has been some good news. A software engineer on maternity leave saw the vaccination gap and created a website that senior find easy to navigate, allowing them to book appointments for their vaccine. Beginning February 11, 2021, caregivers who accompany seniors to their vaccine appointments can now receive the vaccine as well. I have also seen seniors waiting in line at the VA for their vaccine. The kinks are getting worked out and I am filled with hope.

They always say hindsight is 20/20. In that light, I appreciate the pediatrician’s advice all those years ago. I am relieved that we have a vaccine for COVD-19 and I am positive all the rollout issues will be resolved. I marvel at how my viewpoint has changed through the years. It really is true: never say never!

Jean Jones is a coding analyst at 3M Health Information Systems.

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