Healthcare information technology, communications and administration careers continue to grow, which places a high demand on entry-level professionals eager to jump into a managed healthcare career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent employment growth rate over the next ten years. This employment growth is nothing new for the healthcare industry, but the reasons for the surge in IT, communications and administration positions specifically are fairly new. Knowing the source of these employment trends gives professionals, especially job-seekers, an advantage in applying, interviewing, and retaining employment. Medical billing and coding positions are particularly in demand due to various governmental regulations and healthcare industry changes over the past five to ten years. To give students and recent graduates some insight into why medical billing and coding is a career worth going into, let’s review the reasons behind the billing and coding employment surge.
International Classification of Diseases
Every healthcare facility keeps records (digital and/or hardcopy) categorized in the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD. The newest ICD update, ICD-10, went into nation-wide implementation in October of 2016. ICD-10 is unique in that it is a new coding system for patient procedures. ICD-10 consists, among many other new coding procedures, around 69,823 diagnosis codes, 71,924 procedure codes and an additional 140,000 new codes in total. The practical implementation of ICD-10 is, as you might have guessed, largely slow-moving and rigorous. ICD-10 is an enormous factor in the demand surge for qualified medical billing and coding professionals – which is why it is essential for individuals going into the medical billing and coding profession to receive training in ICD-10.
Electronic Health Records
Since 2010 the U.S. government has required all healthcare facilities to transition all medical records to digital records. Electronic health records, or EHR, allow for more accurate patient records, more streamlined billing, more efficient treatments, and they take up much less space than traditional hardcopy records. While the switch to EHR is undoubtedly better for the healthcare industry, it requires a lot of additional work for medical billers and coders in facilities of any size. This is another hugely influential cause for the demand of trained medical billing and coding specialists. In general, most current billers and coders are of an older generation and do not have much experience in electronic records. It takes specific training to be able to fluently operate EHR systems, especially in regards to moving a lot of previously organized hardcopy records into a new digital system. Individuals preparing to enter the medical billing and coding field would be wise to allocate a good portion of training on EHR management.
Current Procedural Terminology
Like ICD updates, healthcare terminology and research systems require regular updates. Current Procedural Terminology, or CPT, is identification of codes that the coders use to report medical procedures and services which all national healthcare facilities follow and implement. CPT codes are typically added to once or twice per year, but may require updated more frequently. Because these terminology codes are crucial for accurate patient care, this is a position requiring extreme diligence and expert knowledge. Due to the sheer number of digital medical records existing because of the EHR switch, there will undoubtedly be more CPT and similar updates to coding at a more frequent rate in the future.
Healthcare facilities from private doctor practices to city hospitals are hiring more qualified medical coding and billing technicians than ever before to keep up with the digital world. In summation, any entry-level medical coder should absolutely be proficient in ICD updates and standards, EHR practices, and CPT coding.