Computer Assisted Coding

Is Medical Coding a “Dying Career?”

A few days ago I got an email from someone who came across my blog and she asked if me if I thought medical coding was a “dying career.” I could see why someone would wonder that. The world is constantly changing. But I gave it some thought– and the short answer to that is No–I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. But is the medical coding profession changing? To that I would have to say yes.

This is why I think medical coding in general is changing a little–technology. There are computer assisted coding systems out there now that attempt to code reports. In other words–there are computers trying to be coders. But here is the thing–while these computers can pick up key words, there’s no comprehension. The computer does not understand context.

Just for a simple example–say a report says a patient does “not have pneumonia.” You, being the awesome medical coder that you are, would know not to code that. But these computer assisted programs sometimes miss that. Meaning it will code the pneumonia solely based on the fact that it’s a key word that it picked up. That is just a simple example, but there are many others.

Think about this example–how many ICD-10-CM codes are there for diabetes? Hundreds right? I would be willing to bet that a computer program would not be able to code that correctly, unless it was the default code E11.9. While it’s great that it can pick up on key words–there are so many different codes for this, that it may not be right. And of course you know what happens when reports are coded wrong–denials!!

So back to the original question on whether or not coding is still a good career choice–it definitely is. There will always need to be a human to check this stuff. I can’t think of any doctor or practice that would be ok with 100% of their reports being looked over by computer program rather than a real coder.

Also, since I am in the field–I do not want to see computer assisted programs take over. I’ve seen firsthand how many mistakes these programs make, and let’s face it–medical coding is in and of itself it’s own language. There’s guidelines, rules and context that anyone reading the reports will have to understand. So at the end of the day–there’s always going to be a need for medical coders.

Obviously this is my opinion and I can not predict the future. So if you’re a medical coder already in the field–what are your thoughts on this? What role (if any) does computer assisted coding programs play in your practice/company?

Thanks for reading.

-Lindsay Della Vella, COC






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