Medical Billing and Coding Bad Habits

Today’s medical billing and coding professionals are under constant pressure and deadlines to work ever faster while improving efficiency. Accuracy and speed are nearly an oxymoron, yet coding professionals can frequently find these in the same sentence of their job description. To meet the demands of their employers or contractors, billing and coding professionals often resort to measures that over time can develop into bad habits.

Not least among these is failing to read into the full medical record. By not reading deep enough into a patient’s medical record, or skimming a medical provider’s notes or dictations, coding professionals may miss key pieces of information. This could mean missing the chance to code for a more specific procedure, missing a secondary diagnosis or procedure, and making superficial errors.

Another shortcut many billing and coding professionals use is computer software. This is often designed to display medical codes according to what is typed into a search. There are several problems that can arise with this. For one, including the wrong keywords may return no results, or the user may end up with a general code when a more specific one exists. Another problem is that software in itself can pose certain challenges when it comes to updates, especially in an industry that experiences constant additions and revisions to its codes.

By coding for the same procedures dozens of times, billing and coding professionals will automatically commit these to memory. This can be all well and good, until that memorized number is altered by one digit after a long three-day weekend. The result will be dozens of rejections or mis-billed claims that will go undetected until a notice is issued by the reimbursing party, which could potentially take a matter of weeks.

Search engine companies are becoming increasingly aware of the growing tendency for billing and coding professionals to do an internet query for a medical code. By doing a quick Google search for “High Blood Pressure Code,” coding professionals can find their answer in the first result. When searching for “Low Blood Pressure” in Wikipedia, a helpful side bar at the top right of the web page displays low blood pressure’s ICD-9 and ICD-10 code. However, coders beware. Although a search engine can often times point in the right direction, it is common for this to be for the most generic or common diagnosis. A high ranking in an internet search does not necessarily even mean it is an accurate code. When finding a code from an unofficial source, professionals should always double check this with the actual coding book.

As with many professions, impatience and distraction have also been known to be the bane of billers and coders. This can often be a symptom of mental stresses, possibly not even related to the occupation.

Finally, an important bad habit to address is a lack of action. This is primarily on two levels: training opportunities and asking for assistance. Many larger cities or medical service institutions provide annual or quarterly opportunities for billing and coding professionals to gain continuing education in their fields. A good seminar will always provide professionals with additional strategies for self-improvement. There is also no shame in asking for help when it’s needed; on the contrary. What could take an hour of research can sometimes be solved in a few minutes by asking a colleague who has had the same experience.

Sacrificing accuracy for speed can add up to a lot of lost money. Billing and coding professionals should always remember to double check their work and ensure their job is well done, no matter what the temptations or pressures may be.