Have you heard of the AAPC?
It stands for the American Academy of Professional Coders and I recently had the pleasure of speaking at one of their meetings.
AAPC is the world’s largest training and credentialing organization for the business of healthcare, with more than 180,000 members worldwide who work in medical coding, medical billing, clinical documentation improvement, medical auditing, healthcare compliance, revenue cycle management, and practice management.
They invited me to speak about my story with hopes that I could shed some light on the maternal and neonatal health issues they code for and help them better understand the severity of these issues and put some faces behind the numbers.
I think that mission was accomplished.
My presentation began with my story. As many of you know, I suffered through an extremely high-risk pregnancy with my fourth child and I almost lost my life on four different occasions during my (short) pregnancy. My medical team was only able to keep me pregnant until 23 weeks gestation, at which time I had to deliver my daughter via an emergency C-section, which led to me needing over 30 units of blood to survive because my placenta had grown through my uterus and attached to both my bowels and bladder. After they were surgically separated, I needed a hysterectomy stop the bleeding.
Although this was an extremely traumatic experience for me and my family, it does not compare to what my daughter had to go through because of her premature birth. Joy was born weighing just 1 pound an 4 ounces (575 g) and was not even as long as a ruler. She was intubated immediately after her birth and was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she was hooked up to many more tubes and wires monitor her health and keep her alive.
Joy spent a total of 121 days in the NICU. The first 60 of those days were very stressful because she was barely clinging to life and was forced to endure more medical procedures than most healthy adults will ever experience in their lifetimes.
Our story is important to tell because premature babies have a plethora of medical complications that need coding, and they cost the healthcare system a great deal of money, but they are worth every penny!
Look at my daughter today 🙂
Once I shared my story, I moved on to discuss the rates of premature births in our country (credit to March of Dimes and their Premature Birth Report Card) and compared each state to each other and then to the world. The audience was in shock to see just how many babies are born premature each year. I also showed them the very sad facts regarding the disparities in premature births regarding families of color.
The next part of my presentation explained all of the different health complications that can accompany a premature birth and I described the most common ones including Apnea, Bradycardia, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), Intraventricular Hemorrhages (IVH), Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), Jaundice, Anemia, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD), and Sepsis. I believe this was eye-opening for the group.
After a short break and time to figure out our technical difficulties, I was able to get a Skype session going with Deb Discenza of Preemie World. Deb was able to join us from the DC area via webcam and shed some light on the health issues that follow our premature babies into toddlerhood into adolescence and even into adulthood.
Prematurity and its health complications don’t just end on the day the baby is discharged from the NICU. Deb shared her personal prematurity story and how her daughter Becky is doing today, as a teenager. She was able to share a lot of information that she has gathered through her organization on what happens to many preemies as they grow, including vision problems, heart issues, Asthma, Cerebral Palsy, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Bipolar Disorder (BD), Depression and Learning Disabilities (LD). All of these complications are part of the health care system and medical billing and coding community and will be there forever.
Overall, I think we gave a great presentation and I hope we spread awareness about the reality of a premature birth and how it can impact both the baby and the family for a lifetime.
Thank you AAPC, for the opportunity to spread awareness about high-risk pregnancies and premature births. It is my passion.
Thanks for reading!