ICD-10 Training: Reducing education costs for medical coders

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

When you're budgeting resources and money for ICD-10  implementation, don't forget you need to pay for more than software or conslutants. Training will be a necessary cost you need to budget now.

During a HIMSS Virtual Briefing last week on "Prepare Your Staff: Planning for the ICD-10 Implementation Medical Coder Shortage," it was estimated that medical coders will need about 50 hours of training each. And each hour would cost about $100. That's $5,000 for just one medical coder to learn ICD-10 codes. Multiply that out by the number of coders in a medical practice or hospital, and add training for other personnel. Although the non-coders will require fewer hours and in some cases less expensive sessions, that's going to add up to a large amount of money.

The good news is that's going to be stretched out over the next two years. And there's a way to reduce that amount.

Anita Archer at Hayes Management Consulting has three suggestions for reducing your ICD-10 training budget:

ICD-10 trainingTrain some trainers

Put one or two medical coders through the training that enables them to come back and train the rest of the medical coders. This is going to save money.

But you need to identify the right people with the following traits:

  • Some public speaking skills
  • Comfortable with change and learning
  • Ability to organize and plan training sessions
  • Desire to do more than coding

That last point isn't a slam at people who are comfortable in their roles as medical coders. But that isn't for everyone. You're looking for the person who's wants more variety and challenges.

Focus where it's needed

Archer recommends starting with the problem areas. Where will documentation (or lack of) create problems when coding in ICD-10? This will help customize the training so that time is spent only on the areas that need it.

Start non-coding training now

The actual training on ICD-10 coding for non-coders shouldn't start now. But reinforcement courses on anatomy & physiology can be arranged now. Not sure if you're going to want to handle this internally. Seems that one of your physicians can do this training if they have an understanding of what medical coders need to know for ICD-10 coding.

There's another type of training you should arrange for your trainers. Toastmasters is an international public speaking and leadership club. It's a great organization to develop the skills that any trainer would need. Anyone from people who are afraid of speaking to those who do it frequently can learn and improve their skills.

It's a long-term commitment that emphasizes practice and feedback. It will improve the quality of your training.

Budgeting for training

It looks like your organization will have to budget for expensive off-site training for at least one person. Remember the cost doesn't end there. Time needs to be budgeted for that trainer to plan and implement the ICD-10 training. That is time that the trainer will not be coding. And the trainees won't be spending that time in classes doing any coding either.

Either you take the hit coding production or hire extra help to cover. This is something you need to figure out now since medical coders will be more in demand as you approach Oct. 1, 2013.

The right mix of training and staff allocation depends on each organization. Planning it sooner than late will be key to saving money.