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INTRODUCTION TO ENCODER SOFTWARE WHAT IS AN ENCODER? Encoder programs are unique coding software programs that enable the new or experienced coder to locate the proper CPT, ICD-9-CM, and HCPCS codes quickly. Encoders contain all CPT and ICD-9-CM codes and are available either on CD-ROM or as an Internet download. These programs not only give fast results, but some encoder programs also give code descriptions in lay terms. Most encoder programs will also allow you to place notes and bookmarks for quick reference. These applications are quickly and easily learned. Although using encoder programs is the fastest way to look up codes, most encoder programs do not readily let the coder review the guidelines specific to that code. However, most do contain some type of guidelines that you can access through the click of a mouse. Most coders or billers must manually refer to the CPT or ICD-9-CM manual to view the guidelines of a specific code. An example of this is the code 64553. This code is used for the percutaneous implantation of a neurostimulator electrode for the cranial nerve. According to the guidelines, this procedure may be applied by both simple and complex stimulators. However, the encoder program does not show this information while the user is viewing the code or description of the procedure. All guidelines are located at the beginning of each section of the CPT and ICD-9-CM manual. You must know how to code before you can use an encoder as a quick reference. Types of Encoders Encoder programs are readily available as Internet downloads or on CD-ROMs from various manufacturers. There are also Internet-based programs that provide some level of service for free: for example, you may be allowed to access the CPT portion of an Internet-based encoder but must pay to access the ICD portion or vice versa. Using an encoder allows for fast coding. However, you must learn the guidelines and rationales behind coding. Codes are updated every year, and coding guidelines are also updated. Therefore, codes that are acceptable one year may have been deleted or changed the following year. Encoders also offer the ability to search for a specific code using the Search box. You may also use the Search box to locate a procedure or a diagnosis. This will usually show all the codes associated with that procedure or diagnosis. It is then up to you to investigate which code is appropriate for the procedure or diagnosis. Practically all encoder programs also provide the coder with the capability of placing notes for future use. More of these programs are becoming available, and there are many types of encoders on the market today. Most encoder programs provide all of these capabilities with the inclusion of relative value units (RVU). The RVU was developed to give CPT codes a basic unit value based on the physician’s work, overhead, and medical malpractice insurance.
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The Unique Look of Encoders Each encoder program has, like any other application, a special look of its own. These programs
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