How Does Technology Impact the Medical Coding Industry?

Technology has radically changed the face of America in the last few decades. It has opened up entirely new careers and affected how old jobs are now being performed. The healthcare industry has a reputation for being quite labor intensive, but technology has made its mark here as well. Medical coding, in particular, is a field that has been directly impacted by these advancements.

3 Technological Impacts on Health Information Technology

  1. Production: Productivity has been dramatically enhanced by the use of technology, particularly with the development and increased usage of electronic health records (EHRs), and the upcoming shift to ICD-10-CM. The sophistication of computers and computer programs have not only increased the efficiency of the workers using them, but in some cases, have gone as far as to eliminate the need for manual work on many routine procedures.
  2. Software: The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (commonly shortened to HITECH Act) has placed certain reporting requirements on healthcare, which necessitates compilation and processing of data. As a result, computer-assisted coding applications (CAC) were created to form direct links between documentation and needed medical codes, further increasing the accuracy of billing systems.
  3. Finance: The financial impact has been significant, to say the least. Use of coding related software has resulted in unbilled accounts dropping from $3.5 million to less than $50,000 in just three years times. Clearly, the need to have efficient payment of bills has prompted the industry to become increasingly more automated.

The future shows there will be no retreat from technology in medical coding. The efficiency factor and enhanced payment collections alone will justify the purchase of more advanced software as the years go by. Paperwork will be a thing of the past as electronic health records systems are put in place (ex: Mississippi has already created the Mississippi Coastal Health Information Exchange).

What Does This Mean for Future Coders?

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What does this mean for job opportunities in the medical coding profession? Will the increased dependance on technology result in a decrease in the number of job openings in the coming years? Not hardly. Healthcare will continue to grow as the American population ages, and medical coding will be a beneficiary of these increased needs. The possibility of medical coding from remote locations will become increasingly more probable, as new software permits professionals to work from home. Technological advances simply mean that medical coders will be able to handle increasingly larger loads of work, and the required activity will be a bit easier to perform.

It will be essential for all medical coders to stay current with the trends. The American Health Information Management Association has noted that increasingly more technological education and knowledge will be required in addition to the ordinary clinical knowledge skill set. This can mean that more formal education, including baccalaureate degrees, will be needed in order to secure more technologically-based jobs in the profession.  Accepting lifelong learning as a fact of life will allow a medical coding professional to stay productive, and at the same time, open up new opportunities as technology continues to shape the contours of the healthcare industry.

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