Technology has clearly had a huge impact on the field of medical billing and coding. Whereas 30 years ago all billing and coding work would have been done with a paper and pen and submitted through the US mail, today’s billing and coding professionals are increasingly finding their workspace to be virtual and electronic.
Not only has a billing and coding professional’s workplace become computerized; today even many medical billing and coding training or education programs are offered online. Technology has fundamentally altered many aspects in this field. This raises the question, how has it affected the billing and coding industry and what can be expected in the future?
Past, Present, and Future
While the adoption of technology into the medical billing and coding workplace has been a gradual process, there have been some notable benchmarks that have punctuated this trend. The 1990s saw the first medical billing and coding software become available for the personal computer. Over a decade later in 2009 Congress passed the HITECH Act that created a financial reward for health care providers who adopted more efficient computerized means of operating. As part of this legislation, many health care providers will begin to be penalized in 2015 if they fail to convert to more efficient electronic record keeping and processing.
Undoubtedly the fact that Congress is legislating a move towards electronic efficiency signals a future where medical billing and coding is done entirely with a computer. Not only are health care records becoming entirely electronic, cases of virtual medical care are also becoming more frequent.
It was recently announced that UCLA will unroll a system that allows students to attend a virtual video conference doctor’s appointment using their cell phones or computer. More than a decade ago the first virtual surgery was performed by a doctor in New York who was connected via the internet to a machine in France that successfully removed a woman’s gallbladder.
If technology is to make the administration of medical services more widespread, this will have a positive effect on the field of medical billing and coding.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Technology for Billing and Coding Professionals
While an increase in medical services allowed for by new technology is clearly a plus for billing and coding professionals, technology in this field can also have its drawbacks.
As reports abound about major retailers having their computer systems hacked with consumer credit card data being exposed, there is an obvious concern about the electronic security in place for sensitive health care information stored on a hard drive. In fact, there have already been millions of cases involving the disclosure of such sensitive information. A billing and coding professional’s worst fear is being found guilty of negligence and having to pay millions of dollars in fines.
However it could also be reasoned that thieves might just as well break into a locked office and steal the same sensitive information from a file cabinet; medical information will always be vulnerable. One possible technological impact without such a counter argument is the double-edged sword of efficiency; as medical billing and coding becomes more efficient with a computer, employers will undoubtedly require less employees to get the same job done. This fact is undeniable.
A side note to increasing efficiency is that as billing and coding professionals can accomplish more with better technology, they will ultimately generate more revenue and should also therefore become more valuable to their employer, i.e., earn a larger salary.
In any case, before becoming too worried about redundancy consider that even as technology makes industries more efficient, there is still plenty of demand for these essential services, especially those like medical billing and coding. In fact, because the billing and coding field is projected to grow so much in the coming future – thanks to expanding health care coverage and the aging baby-boomer population – any losses that might be incurred through improved efficiency may be more than compensated for with a general increase in demand for professionals in this field.