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How EHR technology and ICD-10 impact the clinical coding workflow

The implementation of EHR technology — in conjunction with the transition to the ICD-10 codes and the use of computer-assisted coding (CAC) — will have a significant impact on the clinical coding function in health care.  These three changes taken together will “profoundly alter how coding is performed, managed, and integrated into the healthcare delivery system,” say authors of the article Re-engineering the Coding Workflow, published this month in the Journal of AHIMA.

Health information management (HIM) professionals who take the time now to evaluate their clinical coding workflows could save money in the future, say the authors, by leading to faster process improvement, lower overall costs and more informed ICD-10 budgeting.

The authors recommend taking the following five steps to re-engineer the coding workflow:

  • Assess current workflow: map the process
  • Outline the future state: who, what, and where
  • Define the gaps and identify solutions
  • Set realistic expectations and timelines
  • Re-engineer the process (and celebrate success)

With the transition to ICD-10 codes causing so much angst among hospital coders, open communication with the coding team is essential to successful implementation. The authors recommend positioning technology (CAC, EHR, ICD-10) as a tool to support the coding process, not a computer system to replace people. HIM professionals should discuss with coders how the new technology will bring them benefits, and should identify coders who have technology experience they can share with others.