Guest post: Tips for entering the world of CDI

CDI Blog - Volume 14, Issue 7

by Rabia Jalal, MBBS, CCS, CDIP, CCDS, RHIA

It seems like forever ago, but in reality it was about five years ago that I had relocated to California from my home state of New York and was searching for clinical research jobs. I happened to type in foreign medical graduate in one such job engine, and a listing popped up for CDI/coder auditors. Both these words seemed more like Greek to me than the information I had to learn during my medical school days and medical board licensing exams. I applied for the positions after reading a brief description of the role anyway, and the rest, as they say, is history!

So, what exactly is CDI? According to a 2013 article in Lippincott’s 2013 Nursing Career & Education Directory, it can be defined as “the best practices, processes, technology, people, and joint effort between providers and billers that advocates the completeness, precision, and validity of provider documentation inherent to transaction code sets (e.g. ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, CPT, HCPCS) sanctioned by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the United States.”

Since I became a certified CDI specialist several years ago, I’ve had many aspiring healthcare professionals asking how they can get into the CDI field. These individuals are much like I was five years ago and I’d like to take a moment to pass along some basic tips to help them step into the CDI field:

  1. Look into getting certified in ICD-10 and PCS Coding. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is a good resource for this.
  2. Consider enrolling in the ACDIS CDI Apprentice Program to learn the basics of CDI work.
  3. Look for organizations that are willing to train RNs/physicians/coders from scratch in CDI work, rather than only hiring experienced CDI professionals.
  4. Network at local and national ACDIS conferences. When I was a fresh medical graduate, and prepping for board exams, an instructor told me, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
  5. Enroll in CDI Boot Camps to advance your knowledge. ACDIS offers a number of these courses, many of which are offered virtually now.
  6. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other CDI professionals. You never know where an opportunity will arise, or some valuable advice may be given. 
  7. Never be afraid to learn new things. I remember my own days starting off as an auditor and CDI specialist and struggling to find query opportunities and learning how to code. It’s a big challenge, but a doable one.

While stepping into a new field may be daunting, it is possible. Remember to put in the work, reach out to others in the field, and step into your new field with confidence.

Editor’s note: Jalal is a CDI specialist/senior clinical analyst at Optum360, working at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, California. Contact her at Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ACDIS, HCPro, or any of its subsidiaries.

Found in Categories: 
ACDIS Guidance, Education