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How to Overcome the Medical Coder Shortage


The healthcare sector is one of the largest industries in the United States and is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. Healthcare providers are dealing with an increase in patient visits and admissions, leading to a rise in the adoption of technologies within the healthcare industry to aid administrative workflow.

The medical coding industry has evolved significantly in the past few years with new technologies emerging. As healthcare organizations grow and expand their services, coders play a crucial role in shaping these new initiatives. The need for medical coding is rising; competition for fewer and fewer coding jobs will make it more challenging to break into the industry. The national shortage of medical coders is estimated at 30%.

Increased Demand for Healthcare Professionals

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that healthcare employment will grow 13% from 2021 to 2031, outpacing the national average for all occupations, resulting in approximately 2 million new jobs. The increase can be partially attributed to the aging baby boomer generation, with Medicare enrollment increasing from 55 million in 2016 to an estimated 82 million by 2030.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that there will be a high demand for medical coders, with the number of jobs expected to increase by 23% from 2016-2026. The uptick in demand is due to the fact that healthcare providers are becoming more dependent on technology, which requires trained professionals to implement it.

To keep up, medical coders must support electronic health records (EHRs), ensure that information is accurately reported and that the healthcare revenue cycle management makes collections for medical services.

More Medical Coders are Needed to Support EHR Utilization

The increased adoption of EHRs by healthcare providers is driving a need for more medical coders to support them, rising from 9% in hospitals in 2008 to 91% in 2021.

These EHRs consist of standardized codes of medical conditions and procedures found in ICD-10 and, eventually, ICD-11 to categorize and track patient diagnoses and treatment services. While ICD-10 has been fully integrated in many countries, the U.S. rollout has been repeatedly delayed, with an increase in ICD-9 medical coders retiring rather than transitioning to ICD-10. ICD-10 significantly increased in complexity compared to ICD-9 by the sheer number of codes (68,000 vs. 13,000 codes in ICD-9). Still, it provides more accurate and up-to-date terminology and allows more specificity in diagnoses over the limited structure of ICD-9.

However, ICD-10 has made it more challenging for healthcare providers to hire and retain qualified, highly trained, specialized coders who can support complex code structures and compliance requirements.

Use of Technology in Medical Coding

The use of new technologies in medical coding has improved productivity, accuracy, and compliance while increasing collections. While not all facilities have the resources to equip their coders with every possible tool, organizations must recognize and appreciate what tools are available to stay current with best practices.

Intelligent technologies can help simplify the complex process of Health Information Management (HIM) to maximize the healthcare providers’ benefits and mitigate risks. Technology-enabled medical coding services provided by third-party vendor GeBBS Healthcare Solutions include a team of certified and specialized professionals utilizing proprietary technologies. The auditing platform identifies errors, compliance risks, quality assurance processes, and financial opportunities to streamline coding workflows, all detailed in a customized compliance report.

Offshoring Revenue Cycle Management

Healthcare providers that can adapt quickly and effectively will be better positioned for continued success over those who are more inflexible to the changing medical landscape and are more set in their ways. The shortage of qualified in-person medical coders not only can cause healthcare providers to have difficulty hiring enough people to meet their needs, but also it has led to some hospitals and practices losing patients (and therefore revenue) because they need help finding enough coders to meet their demands.

Healthcare providers face many challenges as they try to meet revenue goals without compromising quality or regulatory compliance. By offshoring EHR and revenue cycle management (RCM), providers can reduce operating costs compared to on-site coding. Offshoring to a trusted partner also frees up some administration duties so that providers can focus more on their calling — direct patient care.

The revenue cycle management industry has seen a significant shift in recent years, as it is now common for companies to outsource their RCM. Outsourcing allows healthcare providers to reduce their operating costs and increase their margins. This shift has also had a significant impact on the RCM industry itself. Offshore medical coding companies have had to find ways to make their services more cost-effective and efficient to compete in this new environment.

One way they do this is by implementing proprietary technologies, including the following:

  • Real-time coding progress
  • Interactive auditing dashboard
  • Expert coding audits to ensure accuracy and compliance in their coding
  • Evaluation and management calculator to increase efficiency, oversight, and accuracy

Meet Your Coding Needs With Latest Technology Innovations

The medical coding industry is in the midst of a significant transformation. How medicine is practiced has changed significantly over the past several decades and will continue to do so in the coming years. As technology becomes more and more integral to our lives, healthcare providers are expected to manage more data than ever. The medical coder shortage is a serious issue that affects the entire industry. It can be met with technology and innovation, so it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in this field.

GeBBS Healthcare Solutions’ expert team of 2,500-plus AHIMA/AAPC-certified coders utilizes their extensive IDC-10 training and knowledge to fulfill your coding needs, regardless of your organization’s size. Scalable medical coding and auditing services are designed to integrate into your unique existing EHR and RCM systems using intelligent proprietary technologies to maximize revenue collections while managing risks.

To alleviate the pressures on-site medical coding can cause, visit gebbs.com to request a consultation with one of our experts today!

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