COVID-19 has hit healthcare organizations extremely hard – from both a financial and operational perspective. Managing new safety protocols, staffing, caring for COVID-19 patients, managing surge capacity, and allaying patients’ concerns all while trying to preserve the volumes needed to maintain operational margins. In 2020, 29 more hospitals filed for bankruptcy, and many more are on the brink with losses mounting as COVID-19 continues to surge across the country. The American Hospital Association estimates hospitals lost over $200 billion between March and June of 2020, and while the vaccine brings hope for a light at the end of the tunnel, times were already difficult for many hospitals prior to the pandemic.
For healthcare organizations working tirelessly to reduce overhead expenses, improve margins, and streamline operations, many look to outsourcing as a sound decision both logically and fiscally. While there are dozens of areas across the healthcare system that can be outsourced, some areas are better suited to reap the rewards needed to improve revenue cycle performance, from start to finish. Medical coding is a commonly outsourced function that can offer a wide variety of benefits for any health system and especially for those struggling with staffing, volumes, and expertise.
Why Outsource Medical Coding?
Revenue cycle is a complex process, ripe with many areas of opportunity for improvement. One of these such opportunities is optimizing and outsourcing medical coding, which can have a major impact on the bottom line. Here are just a few of the many reasons to consider outsourcing medical coding.
- Accuracy is Everything. When it comes to medical coding, getting it right the first time is critical. Inaccurate coding can have many negative ramifications. For example, under-coding leaves potential revenue on the table, whereas over-coding can lead to costly penalties and fines. Outsourced medical coding vendors like GeBBS have proven high accuracy rates, high production numbers, and a scalable workforce to provide added peace of mind for overtaxed health systems. In addition, through the use of unique technology platforms such as GeBBS’ iCode Assurance, hospitals can ensure medical coding reflects the actual care delivered, helps increase accuracy, improves quality, and streamlines coding efficiencies. Similarly, working with a partner often improves the speed of coding, which can help optimize cash flow by getting claims paid more quickly.
- It’s All About Expertise. Medical coding is a complex field. With more than 70,000 ICD-10 codes and code sets that change regularly, it’s a function that requires expertise from certified coders who are staying abreast of the latest regulations and guidelines. Vendors who provide outsourced medical coding will typically require all coders to have the latest certifications, to network with other coding professionals, and to participate in continuing education opportunities each year. This takes the burden of time and expense of ongoing education off the hospital, and ensures coders are always in the know about the latest in best practices and compliance for medical coding.
- The Right Talent Available, All the Time. Everyone in the business knows it’s tough to find certified medical coders these days. Working with an outsourced partner means never having to worry about recruiting top talent, dealing with turnover, providing training, or the efforts of onboarding. Medical coding vendors work hard on your behalf to ensure the best and most qualified coders are available whenever and wherever they’re needed and quickly.
- Reducing Overhead Improves Margins. Certainly, a top reason for outsourcing is to reduce overhead – which comes in the form of salaries, benefits, recruiting, training, onboarding expenses, costs for ongoing training and certifications, office space and equipment, and much more. Eliminating employees from the payroll can help improve profit margins, while also streamlining efficiency.
- Scale Up or Down as Needed. Healthcare is a volatile business more often than not. Consider the effects of the pandemic – hospitals halted most services last spring to ensure adequate PPE and supplies were available, canceling elective procedures, and many outpatient services. With an outsourced partner for coding, you only pay for the coding services you receive, so if there’s no work, there’s no coding expenses incurred. Similarly, after hospitals stockpiled PPE and prepared for COVID-19, many began experiencing a surge in volumes that in-house coding teams were not always adequately staffed to handle. Vendors can easily scale up or down, based on your patient volumes and needs – providing a nimble and flexible extension of your coding team.