With so many clinical and regulatory initiatives in limbo, numerous hospitals that are already operating with thin-stretched staffing are finding their resources being further taxed. While the demand for quality medical coding healthcare professionals is high and getting higher, the supply of these individuals is at historic lows. Some professionals in the coding industry believe the challenges and obstacles created by this medical coding staffing strain will be one of the worst healthcare has faced in around 10 years.
Health Information Management (HIM) departments are also affected by these challenges and for years, they’ve operated under an ever-worsening scarcity of qualified medical coders, a situation which will be exacerbated by looming changes to the industry. Though no one can project how widespread the shortage will be, some expect nationwide medical coder deficiencies as high as 30 to 50% as soon as later this year.
Medical coders typically review patient information for preexisting conditions, like diabetes, and also retrieve patient records for medical personnel and act as a liaison between the health clinician and billing offices.
One of the upcoming changes in the healthcare world is the expanding elderly population that will need more healthcare services and extensive care, which will increase the demand for trained medical coding workers. A second change is that the medical coding industry will lose many qualified professionals due to retirement over the next decade because of an aging medical coder workforce whose average age is currently projected at 54. Further aggravating the situation is the shifting environment in which coders are working, characterized by shorter days to bill, the ICD-10 transition, and other regulatory enterprises.
Unless the healthcare industry can draw the interest of a younger workforce, this combination of factors indicates that hospitals will face an uphill resource battle to uphold high levels of medical coding quality and acquiescence.
Hospital HIM departments are in a rare position to lessen the impact of the degenerating coder shortage. They have the ability to train internal medical transcriptionists, of which there is now an excess with technological advances in the field, to be medical coders. The change to coder is possible for many medical transcriptionists and is a win-win for hospitals looking to streamline costs without firing staff and for transcriptionists looking for job security. Medical transcriptionists trained in coding make themselves more valuable asset to their organization as they can be tapped to manage fluxes in volume and planned or unplanned staff deficiencies. However, it is the hospitals that ultimately must decide whether they want to spend resources and energy finding new coders or leverage the skills of good employees who are already associated with the organization.
Since faster than average growth is predicted in the medical coding field through 2020, it’s a good idea to be sure you’re prepared to handle any sudden growth spurts in business. Learn more about PRN’s medical coding factoring programs and how they can help manage cash flow with zero debt.