What Computer-Assisted Coding Means for You

While new medical billing and coding software can improve efficiency and therefore reduce costs for healthcare providers and insurance companies, a billing and coding professional who is worried about becoming redundant has a well-founded concern. Technology, whether it be robotics in car manufacturing or automated customer service centers, has a history of transforming the labor market that is as old as the human race.

There is no doubt that technology has had a huge impact on the billing and coding field already, as detailed in a recent article. Legislation that affects those who work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) goes as far as penalizing some billing and coding professionals who do not adopt certain computerized methods.

Computer-assisted coding is one of the many technological advancements in the medical billing and coding field. This is software that analyzes health care documents and generates codes based on specific word sequences it encounters – kind of like spell check. For example, using the ICD-10 codes, a software program would scan a patient’s medical chart, read a doctor’s note that diagnosed the patient with Ebola, and automatically generate the code A98.4. Such an application has an obvious utility to healthcare providers and insurance companies for more efficient billing and coding.

In fact, several professionals in the medical billing and coding field have postulated that the coming switch to the ICD-10 in October of 2015 will encourage an increase in computer-assisted coding. Human billing and coding professionals will need to adapt to the enormous increase in codes – as well as categorical changes – as the ICD-10 has tens of thousands of new and more specific codes to choose from. For many this would seem like a ripe time for computers to step in for their more cumbersome human counterparts.

There is already little doubt that computer-aided coding is faster than the traditional method. A 2013 study compared the productivity of six coding professionals using computer-aided coding against six professionals without it. The study revealed that after the 12 coding professionals worked their way through 25 complex medical cases, the ones who used computer-assisted coding accurately improved their efficiency by more than 20 percent when compared with their colleges who did not use the software.

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How to Stay Relevant

By looking ahead beyond the immediate future, medical billing and coding professionals can anticipate changes and benefit from them, rather than being at their mercy. If the predictions that the ICD-10 will encourage more computer-assisted coding are true, now is the time for billing and coding professionals to start researching and training with the most relevant software. New billing and coding professionals will enter the workforce with the most up-to-date training. Professionals with years of experience on top of knowledge about the latest computer-assisted coding programs will have a distinct advantage.

It should also be noted that while computer-assisted coding will improve efficiency, human professionals are still required to supervise this new technology. While one study of 12 professionals shows that those who use the latest software markedly improve their efficiency, the scale of the study is too small to extrapolate across the entire billing and coding field. Furthermore, it is questionable that the projected improved efficiency would have any impact on the anticipated surge in growth in the billing and coding field due to the coming-of-age of the baby boomers and increasing access to healthcare for Americans in general.