citing medical articlesHave you ever replied to another coder's question via social media? Has someone replied to your questions? Was the response you received helpful? Did the person responding cite their source? Did you ask for their source or did you just take their answer as authority?

These are all questions I've asked of my students and had asked of me by many of my students, providers, and clients. In my career, I had the privilege of working under an amazing physician attorney who taught me one key concept for ensuring I was taken seriously, knew what I was talking about, and could support my thoughts/opinions when questioned by higher-ups: cite your sources (and use a reputable source).

As I observe social media postings, forum postings, email list serves, and the like, I routinely see individuals “duking out” the correct way to code different scenarios without including any reference to support why they believe the scenario should be coded one way or another. Even more frustrating, those individuals who, without citing medical articles or referencing any source, dispute the opinions of individuals who have cited the guideline or reference they believe backs up their claim. Just a few of the reasons I am frustrated by those that fail to back up their claims:

1. Those new to industry often don't know where to find the answers to their questions. By answering them without giving them information on where to find the answers does them a disservice. It teaches them to believe whatever someone else tells them without questioning (which we have all learned at one point or another, I think, gets us into trouble). It also gives rise to the give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish debate. By simply answering the question, rather than replying with where the answer to the question is found, individuals are taught if they ask someone else will do the work for them.

2. To anyone observing the conversations, little authority is seen in those that do not substantiate their opinions. I know as an employer, the first question I ask when someone provides me an off the cuff answer to a question (particularly in those grey areas) is “Well, why do you think that is the answer?” And how many times, if you work with providers, have you heard the “Show me” or “Prove it” statements?

From a professional standpoint, if we seek to be taken seriously and advance the position of our profession in healthcare, this is just one area we can demonstrate our competence and show we do our due diligence. As I'm sure you've heard before, remember what you post online is out there forever…and can impact so many things. I know a number of employers who look to social media before extending an interview invitation to any potential employee. Why do they look at social media? Aside for looking to see if inappropriate things are posted, they look to see how the individual presents and carriers themselves online. Are they a ‘pot stirrer'? Are they rude? Are they respectful of those with differing opinions? Are they helpful?

All I will say is think before you post. Remember not everyone has your experiences, opinions, or beliefs. Be helpful and open-minded. Your kindness will be recognized, appreciated, and returned to you and impact others in ways you may never know.