Is the future of Clinical Coding Training online?

Girl at laptop

By James Larke

If video killed the radio star… has Microsoft Teams (other platforms are available) killed classroom training?  

Like all of you, I have lost far too many hours on video calls since COVID forced us into the first lockdown back in March 2020. I secretly think the reason we haven’t been put into another lockdown is because Boris can’t stand the thought of another family Zoom quiz.

However, being an NHS Digital Approved Experienced Trainer, I have spent some valuable time in online meetings, meeting coders I would never have otherwise met and delivering a number of standards courses, refresher courses and revision courses. But we aren’t in a lockdown and I am still delivering online…

Attending a course in your pyjamas surrounded by snacks is a massive positive in favour of online training, but there’s nothing stopping us from training in a classroom. So does this mean the future of clinical coding training is online?

Why should we continue to train in a classroom?

Coding can often seem to be stuck in the dark ages – the majority of us still prefer books to the computerised version, the NCCQ is still sat in a central location on a specific date and coding teams rarely share experiences.

Until coronavirus, training fell into the same category – it had to be done in a classroom and everyone got a ring binder full of information which made its way into a drawer never to be seen again (unlike other professions where there are multiple forms of training).

If it sounds like I am fully on the side of online training, that’s not the case.

Training in a classroom brings something we are all craving right now, the personal element. There is a lot to be said for meeting your peers and having some healthy debate. Thinking about this from a quality of training perspective, trainers that have been training for as long as I have will know that you develop the skill of knowing when someone is not understanding what you are saying, or struggling with the content. This is lost over an online platform, where delegates seem to suffer in silence thinking they are disrupting the course if they ask questions. When delivering the standards course this can be particularly problematic. The standards course is crucial to a coder’s career, get it wrong and it will take a lot for that coder to turn it around.

The standards course in its current form certainly does not lend itself to online training and we should be trying to get these back into classrooms.

Why should we continue to train via online meetings?

Training via one of the online meeting platforms certainly brings benefits. From the feedback I have received, it allows coding departments to overcome a number of barriers they often face. Namely:

  • Individuals can join a course running elsewhere in the country
  • The cost is generally cheaper
  • Teams no longer need to find a training room

Essentially, online meetings provide flexibility, efficiency and also allow for person-to-person conversations and feedback.

Why should we use a digital learning platform?

E-learning is new to Clinical Coding. NHS Digital provides a couple of courses that need to be completed prior to sitting the standards course, but up until now that has been the only digital offering.

Since the first lockdown, at Monmouth, we have developed an e-learning platform for coders, which has reimagined the out of date workshops.

No longer have you got to send half your team out of the office for three days, only to back-fill with contractors or miss a deadline. Flexibility and cost-effectiveness are key benefits of e-learning, sought after by all coders and coding departments. 

What would it look like if all these elements existed together?

The obvious conclusion is that all three types of training should exist together and work in harmony. But what would that look like?

Well, as I alluded to earlier, in my opinion the standards course is a classroom delivered course. It’s a crucial time in a coder’s career and needs the face to face environment that a classroom brings.

Having delivered a number of refresher courses and revision courses via Teams, I think they work well and experienced coders can benefit from the relaxed environment that online learning brings.  

Then we are left with every day, on the job training and workshops. With these not being mandatory, we should leave the training to be consumed by the learner at their own pace, picking the subject they want via an e-learning platform.

What are your views and experiences from the three different types of training?

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