Impact on coding jobs?

GregPalmer

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Some of the people I work with think that the evolution of the EMR will decrease the need for medical coders, resulting in fewer medical coders being employed. We know of course that one can't depend on a computer to come up with a correct code, and auditing is necessary. The other view is that even though human auditing is required, the EMRs will do some of the work, so there will be a net decrease in the number of human coders required.

I'm wondering whether anyone has objective data to support either view? Or alternatively, is there a third party out there somewhere who has an unbiased view? (e.g. when I want to know who's likely to win a football game, I don't ask a fan, I look at the betting line in Las Vegas: see what people who are betting their own money have to say.) ;)
 

kevbshields

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Here's a great example I gave to my class today. The VA hospitals put in electronic records probably a decade or more before the private sector got on the wagon. Within the VA, there was not a single case of coder reduction. In fact, at several sites the on-site coding staff has grown as additional work inventory has been picked up and identified.

If VA, with its adoption of EHR and EMR many years before physician practices, did not start chipping away at the number of coders it employs, then it makes no sense for those private institutions to do so with their coders. Truth is, EHR and EMR take no functions away from the coders: we typically do not file, usually don't have much in the release of information functions, rarely expedite records or retire them, so EMR's replacement should impact entry-level medical record clerk jobs handedly over ours.

Now, computer assisted coding (CAC) may have different impacts. I wouldn't worry over it too much yet, in that practices are just now getting up to speed on the EHR bandwagon. It's hard to say when they'll move to spend more money on the IT budget (in the context of I-10) and start looking at lowering those coder numbers. Too, I think CAC is in its infancy.

Do not let this minimize the fact that some unscrupulous EHR vendors will sell the practice (hook, line, sinker) on fabrications about how coders aren't "really needed". Let a RAC auditor get hold of some of those records and see how long the practice agrees with that type of decision . . .

Regardless, the data is not there to support EMR doing away with our jobs. Yes, if you are in the market for record filing jobs, you may run into trouble, but our contribution to the revenue cycle cannot be so easily replaced.
 
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