Medical coding can be done by a skilled professional or by a trained physical therapy billing staff. It is important that who ever is assigned this task is knowledgeable and detail oriented because it affects the billing and revenue cycle for the practice.
Nitin Chhoda shares the latest trends in medical coding and the role of ICD-10 codes to the medical practices.
Incorrect medical coding costs small practices thousands in revenues each year. Medical coding can be a tricky process and requires the expertise of a trained professional, even with an EMR.
Physical therapy billing software will significantly reduce the number of errors and denials, but with upcoming changes in billing codes, clinic owners may want to consider hiring a certified medical coder.
Medical Coding and Billing
Medical coding is a complex and demanding environment requiring someone with special knowledge and expertise, and who is detail oriented. Some practices combine their billing and coding departments under the guidance of a single person.
A good physical therapy documentation system will include billing and coding functionalities that makes a coder’s job easier, but then clinicians must decide if they’re going to hire a certified medical coder or train one themselves.
Even with a top of the line EMR, nothing can replace the expertise that comes with an experienced and certified medical coder. They undergo extensive education and training, build upon their expertise with on-going re-certification courses, and are fully able to navigate changes and updates in the coding system as they occur.
They command more money for their medical coding services, but trying to train a new coder is time consuming and can cost the practice thousands of dollars while they learn.
The Coding Process
The introduction of EMRs adds another level of difficulty to the billing and medical coding process.
An EMR greatly facilitates the job of a professional coder, allowing them to maintain a constant rate of concurrent billing and coding procedures, reducing the ebb and flow of payments that can severely interrupt a practice’s financial health.
A factor that will radically affect the billing and medical coding process is the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 codes in October 2013 that will introduce 100,000 new codes into the existing system of 13,600.
Correct coding is difficult enough – the on-going educational requirements for professional coders will make it easy for them to handle the many changes and updates.
The medical coding changes will affect every medical provider in the country and represents the first comprehensive update since 1977.
The coding changes take into account new diseases that have been discovered, a better understanding of old ailments, new medications and vaccines, and the effectiveness of those medications in treatment.
With mutating viruses and diseases that can be communicated among species, the coding change is long overdue. Global travel and journeys to under-developed countries sets the perfect stage for pandemics.
Switching to ICD-10 Codes
The switch to ICD-10 codes will help all practices provide medical coding that more accurately reflect treatments and procedures. The result is better patient care, quicker reimbursements and fewer denials.
The future is bright for professional medical coders. Their extensive medical coding training is a distinct advantage for practice owners who benefit from their expertise. Better medical coding means better and faster reimbursements, fewer denials, mistakes and errors, and issues can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. EMRs will help medical coders accomplish those goals in an expeditious manner.
EMRs will soon be a fact for every physical therapy practice. Clinic owners who implement an EMR system with correct medical coding will be ahead of the game when the coding changes take effect. Professional coders will play a major role in ensuring that clinicians are compensated for their time and services.