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KLAS: Outsourcing coding, transcription helps ICD-10 implementation – to a point

In a report released earlier this week, research firm KLAS examines the connect – or disconnect – between provider health information management (HIM) departments and third-party billing and coding vendor performance. Ultimately, it concludes HIM departments are gearing up to invest in technology and not services for ICD-10 implementation. But to bridge the gap between now and post-2014, respondents indicated they will lean on outsourced coding and transcription services.

The report, titled “HIM Services 2012: Helping to Weather the Storm,” highlights the heftiest challenges HIM departments face and assesses trending solutions, with a particular emphasis on third-party assistance. More than 400 respondents weighed in on the performance of their transcription, coding, release-of-information and scanning vendors.

According to the report, HIM department leaders’ main concern is making sure EHRs remain complete, accurate and – everyone’s favorite – legal. And though EHR implementation is on the rise, KLAS’ report reveals a steady decline of transcription services. Some 21% of providers say they plan to decrease or even eliminate transcription services this year, opting instead to adopt speech recognition technology, consolidate transcription services to one vendor, or implement a new EHR application.

Providers face more changes. Though the calendar just turned to 2013, next year’s ICD-10 switchover is looming on the schedule. It seems providers – 49% of them – will turn to computer-assisted coding (CAC) to manage the transition to ICD-10’s required deeper documentation for its much larger universe of codes. And though some will implement new technology themselves, most plan on hiring third parties to lead the transition from ICD-9. This is because many providers are expecting staffing shortages, particularly among coders (who are being recruited by consulting groups). Nearly a quarter of providers who are already outsourcing CAC have plans to increase their services.

To access vendors’ success in tackling these shifting trends and future plans, KLAS evaluated vendor turnaround times, report quality, account management, and administrative tools. Respondents indicated they want vendors that have the technology, understand the regulations, and round everything off with thoughtful account management. KLAS data showed that the vendors with the highest market share, so far, aren’t quite measuring up in to providers’ expectations. Smaller vendors scored higher performance ratings.

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