Dealing with emergencies is nothing new to the heath care industry, and while not life threatening, a lack of skilled medical coders threatens to disrupt one of the critical elements a hospital needs to stay up and running—insurance payments.
"Right now there is a dramatic shortage of skilled workers in the market so we have an opportunity to help a lot of our clients," said Torrey Barnhouse, president of TrustHCS.
The shortage is being driven primarily by the coming adoption of a new federally mandated coding standard. To help meet its clients' demands, Barnhouse said TrustHCS, a Springfield, Missouri-based health information services provider, plans to double its medical coding workforce over the next 12 to 18 months. The additional 300 coders it is looking to recruit, train and supervise will then be contracted out to do work for hospitals and doctors' offices.
A coder's job is critical for two reasons. First, they translate all the details of a patients record into codes used by insurance companies to determine how much they reimburse a doctor's office or hospital.
Second, the codes, which adhere to an international standard, can be analyzed by health care providers to determine how effectively, or not, a certain ailment is being treated by a single doctor, or a hospital in the U.S. or around the world.
"We look for particular treatment protocols and outcomes related to those episodes of care," said Barnhouse. "So the accuracy of data collected by coders is centrally important to that."