So Congress passes a comprehensive stimulus plan. It includes a rather large provision for modernizing the country’s health information technology. By doing so, President Obama and the US lawmakers look to lower the cost of health care and pass the savings onto the consumers, ideally lowering the cost of insurance, medicine, and services.
It’s a great plan. Many large hospitals have been implementing enterprise application integration since the mid-90’s. The integration initiative probably stemmed from the Y2K projects. But the cost-saving measures were recognized as a side result. Back then, many analysts priced the cost of integration in the billions of dollars. Very expensive for small organizations. But the stimulus plan will provide money and incentive for smaller hospitals, physicians networks, and solo practitioners who didn’t have the money to undertake the same cost-cutting measures.
The health care technology modernization program will make it easy for medical organizations to share information on patient records. When implemented, it will take less time to process claims and less paper to maintain and store patient records. That’s because patient records and the methods to create and retrieve them will be computerized. No longer will there be a need to pay for storage full of file folders and drawers. Ink and paper, especially the expensive formatted paper, will not be needed as much or at all. Additionally, what normally would take minutes to days to retrieve information from stored file folders can all be done in seconds with computers.
These savings and efficiency measures are necessary because the senior population of the US is growing. And seniors require medical attention as part of their routine. Remember the baby boomers? The hippie generation is getting older, but continue to live a very active lifestyle. Constant health care allows them to pursue new hobbies and activities not traditionally pursued by seniors of the generation before them.
What does this mean to a medical coder? It means jobs. The health care system already relies on medical coders to maintain the standards of data input. Whenever a patient visits his doctor, the records of his visit must be entered in the system carefully and accurately in case another doctor needs to see it for emergency. The growing patient base will require scaling of everything health care, including medical coding.
For a certified medical coder with entrepreneurial tendency, there are plenty of small physicians network, dental offices, solo practitioners sprinkled around the United States. They are in small towns and large urban areas. These smaller organizations are prime candidates to target as clients.
Traditionally, small medical offices do not have the money to hire an in-house medical coder. Sometimes, they have one of the untrained office administrators do the requisite medical coding work for billing and insurance claim. The result is not always up to par with industry standards, but it got them by. Such ragtag practice will likely not work anymore with the new stimulus plan because in order for the cost saving measure to take effect, the data must be standardized throughout the nation.
A certified medical coder with the proper experience have the right skills and knowledge to jump in and start working. More importantly, if the medical coder has the right contacts, i.e. knows the doctor who owns a solo practice or the office manager, then he or she can arrange for coding assignments. The patient records can be picked up, enter the medical coding at home and returned in a digital format. The routine can be scaled up into a homegrown business with various solo practitioners and smaller physicians networks as clients.