With the ICD-10 implementation expected to go forward the day after the 2015 AHIMA National Conference concluded, a lot of the ICD-10 discussion at the AHIMA conference naturally focused on what impact post implementation. The consensus among providers was that two major areas that will have direct impact on revenue will be:
• Loss of coding productivity
• Coding accuracy
Prior to the introduction of ICD-10 there was already a shortage of qualified medical coders. With an anticipated drop in productivity of possibly upwards of 50% initially (based on what was observed during other countries implementations) it is expected that this shortage will only increase. This has caused many providers to consider avenues that have been historically less preferred—such as hiring new coding graduates—to fill open coding positions.
It also seems the most innovative providers are proactively creating new programs and policies aimed at not only obtaining enough coding talent to fill the productivity gap but also retaining the best and brightest of the coding talent they currently employ. Providers are developing and putting into place more structured and concrete career ladders that give coders a clearer picture of where their time invested with the organization will lead them.
During the AHIMA conference, I attended several education sessions that specifically discussed retaining and recruiting coders. All the sessions were delivered by different providers, but they all outlined plans for very similar processes with 3 main parts:
• Assess – Coders will be tested or audited for general coding accuracy or accuracy by targeted area
• Evaluate – Results will be analyzed and educational needs determined by coder or by organization
• Educate – Specialized education will be provided both internally and in cooperation with outside vendors
This process will be continually repeated throughout a coder’s life with the organization in a cyclical nature that propels coders forward along an upwardly spiraling career path.
Providers are also beginning to cultivate relationships with educational partners (like Career Step!) on which they can depend for a pipeline of proven quality coding graduates. These graduates can then be placed into the process above, thus ensuring a continuous upstream of proficient and efficient coders who can meet the productivity and accuracy demands that will now be commonplace with the implementation of ICD-10.
So, one of the big take-aways from this year’s conference was an overall message that is positive for both new and experienced coders alike—new coding graduates are a more viable employment resource than ever and the future looks very bright for all competent and qualified medical coders!