Why you need metrics before you can boost medical coding productivity

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

ICD-10 implementation has the potential to severely reduce medical coder productivity. This is being tied to greater specificity of ICD-10 codes and medical coder learning curves.

Medical practices and hospitals can address those issues now with a couple of measures:

  • Intensive anatomy and physiology training can boost speed and accuracy when assigning ICD-10 codes.
  • Systems such as computer assisted coding (CAC) can boost productivity.

CAC is a really sexy option. It uses natural language processing (NLP) to scan medical documentation and assign medical codes. If that doesn't turn you on, then consider what Vince Schmitz, chief financial officer at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash., told Health Data Management Magazine about how CAC boosted the four hospitals' medical coding productivity:

"Schmitz expects coding productivity to increase by at least 40 percent as measured by how many charts are done in a day, with case mix revenue improvements of two or three percent. In a $1.5 billion delivery system, 'the cost of CAC software is very, very small compared with the revenue improvement,' he adds."

Sounds great. Where do you get one of those?

[See also: CAC & ICD-10: How to evaluate what CAC can do for healthcare providers]

Before you start ordering a CAC system, you need to answer a basic question: How are you going to know productivity increases?

Basically you need to make sure you have some sort of metrics now in order to set a baseline. You have to start measuring something such as charts coded in a day and coding accuracy.

Remember, recording metrics is one of the three secrets of success for the University of Utah Hospital.

And make  sure the CAC system you want measures, tracks and analyzes the same events you do. Otherwise you won't be able to brag about how great your CAC system is.

And you won't be able to complain how much ICD-10 implementation is dragging down your medical coders.