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Computer-assisted coding alone not enough to ease ICD-10 transition

The time it takes to code an inpatient record is reduced by 22%, without affecting the accuracy, when using computer-assisted coding (CAC), according to a study published by the Journal of AHIMA. But the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) study also found that CAC alone does not improve the speed and accuracy of coding. Using the technology without a coder resulted in “a lower recall and precision rate.” The testing was performed at the Cleveland Clinic, with credentialed coders who are required to have at least a 95% accuracy rate.

The AHIMA study used the current ICD-9 coding standard. All HIPAA-covered entities in the U.S. are required to transition to ICD-10 by October 2014. ICD-10 has 150,000 codes compared to 14,000 within ICD-9. The increase in codes allows hospitals to find more accurate data about patient conditions. Healthcare industry experts project that productivity will decrease by 50% in the initial stages of ICD-10 implementation. Some providers are turning to technology to avoid this potential slowdown.

A KLAS Research study found that 49% of providers plan to use CAC to help them in transitioning to ICD-10 codes. Many providers also anticipate hiring third-parties to help them convert to ICD-10, rather than trying to manage that on their own while still carrying out day-to-day operations. The study observed that providers are focusing on technology such as CAC in preparation for ICD-10, partly due to the diminishing availability of coders.

AHIMA has made recommendations regarding coding and the ICD-10 transition. Its main suggestion is to task a health information management (HIM) professional with evaluating an organization’s coding process. This can be done by assessing the organization’s current coding workflow, its strengths and weaknesses, and projecting realistic expectations and timelines for any changes that will be made to the coding plan.

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