Reinvention after IP

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FRANKLIN—As the region looks for ways to reinvent itself in a post-paper mill economy, one business located in the Franklin Business Incubator is growing while it helps people make a successful transition to the health care industry.

Renee Antieau, who owns and is an instructor for the Professional Academy of Health Care Reimbursement Specialists (PAHRS), said her business has been doing well since it restarted in the Incubator in July 2009.

PAHRS prepares individuals seeking certification for jobs in the health care industry, including as a certified professional coder or as a certified reimbursement specialist.

Before moving to Franklin three years ago, Antieau taught coding and specialist classes at her own school in Virginia Beach for eight years. She then taught at Paul D. Camp Community College.

“My passion is to teach,” Antieau said Tuesday. “I wanted to get my business going again, so that’s why I decided to try and start it up right here in Franklin. I didn’t know I would be so busy here.”

Antieau said most of her 50 to 60 students are from Franklin and several are former International Paper Co. mill workers and their spouses, but said anyone out of work or looking for a new career is welcome to enroll.

“What we’re finding now, especially here in Franklin, is that the majority of people have never been in the field,” Antieau said.

Students like Tori Ricks of Franklin and Karen Ferguson of Capron.

“I love it,” Ricks, a resident of Franklin, said Tuesday. She added that her husband used to work for IP. “It’s been going as well as can be expected.”

Said Ferguson: “I had a wallpapering business that has kind of slowed down, so that’s why I decided to do this. And my husband works for VDOT; he doesn’t know how long his job will be around.”

Antieau said students who weren’t already familiar with medical terminology and anatomy would need to take a 16-hour course to cover the basics. Another 16-hour course is available to cover the basics of coding. She added that students with previous training in either of those areas would receive credit at PAHRS if the training took place within the past two years.

Antieau added that PAHRS has two locations in Suffolk for its internship program.

“It’s a whole new ballgame for most folks,” she said. “We have put together an internship program to give our students some hands-on experience. And we are ramping up for job placement; eventually we will be helping to place them into positions.”

Antieau said the need for certified coders and specialists is rising along with the Obama administration’s efforts to crack down on fraud, waste and abuse in the national health care system.

“President Obama has decided to put $1.8 billion into the budget for 2011 to crack down on fraud,” Antieau said. “They’re auditing physicians’ practices and hospitals, and they’re finding that fraud is being done both intentionally and unintentionally.”

According to Antieau, the effort to eliminate health care fraud and waste ramped up in 1992, when the American Medical Association and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed upon documentation guidelines.

“Physicians don’t learn how to document and code when they go to medical school, so they need to hire coders,” Antieau said. “It’s been a huge learning curve for the physicians, who are now not only mandated to document a certain way, but need to make sure their coding matches it.”

Antieau said she thinks the health care industry, and coders and specialists, have a bright future.

“We have come a long way since 1992, but it’s been a much bigger learning curve than anyone realized,” she said. “There are going to have to be auditors when electronic medical records are mandated in 2013. It’s going to be a huge need going forward.”