Billing and Coding Professionals’ Potential to Prevent a Pandemic

Viruses have recently held center stage in the news. The Ebola virus has captured the world’s attention as it has steadily risen to the level of an international public health emergency, despite numerous warning by countless health officials. Starting in August, alongside reports of Ebola was also news about Enterovirus 68. This has been making an increasing amount of headlines as the rare respiratory disease continues to spread in states throughout the Midwest and beyond.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak that began in Guinea has been traced to have originated from a young child who died from the disease in December of 2013. Since then it has spread to several countries in the area and killed thousands of people. In the past Ebola outbreaks have been contained relatively quickly before the virus had a chance to spread. However in the 2014 outbreak, countries affected by the virus such as Sierra Leone and Liberia already had an eroded infrastructure after years of civil war, and hence have to-date been unable to contain the virus effectively. Regional countries such as Senegal have also experienced cases of Ebola, however because of a more developed medical infrastructure have been able to successfully contain the virus.

The serious respiratory virus that has been infecting children starting in the Midwest has been identified as Enterovirus 68. The first reported cases of this virus were in Kansas and Missouri, however now 10 additional state have reported suspected cases of the virus, and the number of those infected is expected to soon pass 1,000. Although much less deadly than the Ebola virus, Enterovirus 68 is also unfortunately much more contagious.

To detect and mount an effective response to both Ebola and Enterovirus 68, health officials indirectly rely on information provided by medical billing and coding professionals. To track a virus, health officials will consider factors such as the incubation period, proximity to known cases, and confirmed diagnoses.

How Medical Billing and Coding Professionals Can Prevent an Epidemic

Although coding for a particular medical procedure in response to an ailment may seem routine to many billing and coding employees, by accurately carrying out their job duties these professionals stand on the front line of preventing the next epidemic. The key to this lies in physicians making accurate diagnoses, with billing and coding professionals transferring this information accurately to a patient’s health record.

Organizations like the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the United Nations’ World Health Organization have the ability to access metadata and statistics regarding outbreaks of infection diseases. These statistics are compiled in part from information that has been assembled by medical billing and coding professionals.

By identifying local outbreaks and containing these before they become regional outbreaks or epidemics, health officials can effectively prevent the large-scale spread of contagious diseases. This process of early detection is called biosurveillance. Gathering accurate and timely biostatistics allows health organizations to allocate resources in the most efficient way possible and take the necessary courses of action to save countless lives. Medical billing and coding professionals can be instrumental in providing key pieces of information.