Medical coders are professionals who use their knowledge of medical terminology, medical codes, and computers to update the medical records of patients in the form of codes. They work alongside other medical professionals and insurance companies in the healthcare industry to provide adequate billing information.
Because of the automation of so many things in the tech world, It’s hard to look around not ask yourself if medical coding will become obsolete in 10 years. Medical codes have facilitated the development of several advancements in the healthcare industry. Its services have also facilitated the medical billing process.
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But with advancements in technology, will medical coding skills become obsolete? Will the need for medical coding become obsolete in the future? If so, you’re probably asking when will medical coding become obsolete altogether? Read on to find out the answers to these questions.
What Is Medical Coding?
Medical coding is an aspect of health information management that involves inputting and maintaining healthcare equipment usage, diagnoses, treatment procedures, and other medical services in codes to optimize access and storage. These medical codes are extracted from the health records maintained by doctors or medical transcriptionists.
The Department of Health and Human Services determines the current technology for medical coding and the regulatory requirements for healthcare facilities in the United States. The purpose of medical coding is to ensure accuracy in transaction reports and the accuracy of claims from all billing parties involved.
The medical coding process works when healthcare professionals document the services they provide to their patients. This documentation is what determines the billing class of the patient and the amount the insurance pays.
Will Medical Coding Be Replaced by Future Technology?
Medical coding has been in existence since the 17th century in London, England. Medical professionals of that era used a system called the “London Bill of Mortality,” a document containing weekly statistical data analysis of the deaths in the city. Over the years, this method evolved into what became the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
With the invention and advancement of machine learning and artificial intelligence, many are wondering if there will be a need for medical coders. Medical coding has gone through several revisions and amendments due to a health information technology revolution.
Today, the newest form of medical billing has grown in popularity and efficiency and the likelihood of more medical coding technology advancements is high. Because of this, we are certain that medical coding won’t become obsolete in the near future, and here’s why.
Introduction of ICD-11
The International Classification of Diseases is the standard used by several countries, including the United States, for classifying diseases. This ICD standard specifies the codes to be used for the coming years. And with a new ICD standard, ICD-11, taking effect starting January of 2022, it is clearly still relevant to the global healthcare industry.
The introduction of this new ICD standard, which will include electronic health record management, signifies a long-term commitment to maintain the medical coding practice. This is because new ICD versions are only introduced after each decade of using the previous versions.
Growth of the Medical Coding Market
Ever since medical coding was introduced, it has seen steady growth in market size. According to comprehensive medical coding data research and analysis conducted by Zippia, there are more than 92,702 professional medical coders in the United States, and this number doesn’t look to be declining anytime soon.
This might be because medical coding is currently worth over $16.4 billion and is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of about eight percent between 2021 and 2028. This field has experienced a steady market growth rate since 2018 and should continue until 2028.
Medical coding isn’t likely to become obsolete anytime soon because it’s managed to adapt to technological advancements in the health, finance, and tech industries as well as other global events.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many practices and processes to adapt or become obsolete, the medical field saw an active amendment and implementation of the medical coding process. So, we can safely state that medical coding will remain relevant, even in the next decade.
Technologies and Trends That Could Make Medical Coding Obsolete
The question shouldn’t be about what technologies and trends could make medical coding obsolete, it should be about how medical coding will evolve in the future. Medical coding is a complex task and, with each ICD version introduced, more demands are made on the classification of diagnostic codes and treatments, meaning that experienced coders will still be needed. However, there are future technological advancements that will affect medical coding.
AI-Assisted Coding Systems
Currently, there are advancements in artificial intelligence that reduce the complexities involved in manual medical coding, making the jobs of human coders less complex. This trend isn’t expected to decline anytime soon. Chances are that with more advanced computer-assisted coding systems, fewer medical coders may be needed in the future.
Studies by Oxford Economics in 2019 showed that 20 million manufacturing jobs will be taken over by robots by 2030. These advancements in robotics suggest that robots could be programmed to imitate the thought processes of humans and replace them in performing essential tasks, even tasks in medical coding.
The radical technological changes that have occurred over the years, including those necessitated by existential threats like COVID-19, have taught us not to rule out the possibility of medical coding robots becoming a norm.
When Will Medical Coding Become Obsolete?
Not soon. The chances of medical coding becoming obsolete in the next few years is low, even with the possibility of coding robots. Robots are computers and, since computers function thanks to human manipulation, there will always be a need for jobs held by humans.
What we can expect to see is the automation of more aspects of medical coding in the coming years, supplementing the efforts of professional coders. This will go a long way to reduce mechanical inefficiencies in the coding process considering how broad the classification of diseases and treatments has become over the years.
What This Means for Businesses
The chance of medical coding becoming completely obsolete is low, as the efficiency of healthcare organizations will suffer without their presence. There are many reasons why businesses will want to keep those with a medical coding job. Here are some of them.
Reduced Healthcare Efficiency
Medical coding is used to categorize diseases, treatment procedures, and death rate statistics. This makes it easy for doctors to understand what treatment to give patients and for governments and medical regulatory bodies to monitor or make long-term decisions about national or global health.
If medical coding was eliminated, doctors would find it hard to keep track of diagnoses and complex treatment procedures would become more difficult to administer. Regulatory bodies would also find it difficult to accurately implement health measures that would benefit people.
Reduced Inefficiency in the Billing Process
Most doctors and other health care professionals get paid by billing their services based on the information recorded with medical coding. If medical coding were to become obsolete, it would be more difficult to properly pay medical professionals for their services. If accurate medical records were not kept, inefficiency amongst medical professionals could become rampant.
Overbilling of Patients
Medical coding ensures that accurate medical records of patients are accessible when needed by insurance companies. If medical coding becomes obsolete, the billing of patients could fluctuate wildly. There could be an increased difficulty in calculating the medical insurance bills for patients.
Insurance companies need medical claims from hospitals before medical bills can be settled. Inefficiencies and inaccuracies in reports could lead to higher medical insurance costs for individuals and an increase in lawsuits between parties.
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Medical Coders Job Outlook
According to the career analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical coders are grouped under medical records and health information specialists. This group is predicted to witness a job growth rate of nine percent, which is faster than all other occupations, between 2020 to 2030.
As of 2020, there were 416,400 medical records and health information specialists in the healthcare industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that this field will experience the introduction of 37,100 new jobs in the industry.
How Much Money Will Medical Coders Make in the Future?
The average medical coder makes about $51,840 per year. This information combined with the job growth rate mentioned above means that the pay for these professionals is sure to increase. The highest 10 percent of medical coders make over $109,000 per year. The medical field, in general, is a booming field, and it would not function properly without medical coders.
What Are the Best States for Medical Coders Jobs?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the highest employment rates for medical coders are California, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and New York. The top states for highest paying medical coding jobs are the District of Columbia, Alaska, Washington, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete: The Key to Future-Proofing Your Career as a Medical Coder
As a medical coder, keeping your coding skills up to date is a great way of staying relevant in your field. If you want to increase your chances of earning a high salary and increasing your career options, you should keep upskilling. Here are some ways you can do that.
Improving Your Medical Coding Skills
Take online advanced medical coding courses. Online courses are the best ways to enhance your career without having to quit your job. These flexible courses can offer you certificates you could use to switch your job or ask for a promotion.
Diversifying Your Professional Skills
Don’t limit your skills to medical coding alone. You can also learn skills that would be applicable in careers like web development, software application development, and systems engineering. Attending coding bootcamps for any of these progressive careers is your best option.
You too could make a technological innovation that could improve the way medical coding is conducted. You don’t need to wait for innovative trends to be set so you can imitate them. To increase your chances of staying relevant in this field, you should try to leave your mark. Collaborate with others, keep up with the latest discoveries, and do some research to improve your skills.
Does Medical Coding Have a Future?
Yes. All the facts gathered in this article support the long-term relevance of medical coding as a field. If you have any doubts about using your analytical skills to become a medical coder, throw them away. This field is essential to the growth and survival of the healthcare industry. You should be more concerned with improving your skills so you can maximize your earnings as a medical coder.
Will Medical Coding Become Obsolete? FAQ
No, it’s not. Based on recent statistics, medical coding will experience a significant market growth rate in the coming years. This field is important to both the healthcare industry and the government. The data from medical coding facilitates several national and global economic decisions.
No. Computers and technological advances will aid medical coders in their jobs and reduce inaccuracies. The chances of medical coders being completely replaced by computers are low, at least in the near future.
Yes, it can be stressful if you’re working for multiple healthcare clients and are required to meet a strict deadline. Some employers and clients set high-performance expectations for medical coders. This can induce stress for these professionals. Coupled with the technicalities of the job, you could quickly become overworked if you don’t properly define your boundaries at work.
Yes, they can. Some medical coders are required to work from home. This is a flexible career that accommodates even freelancing, meaning equally flexible hours. Some healthcare professionals prefer to use contracts, rather than hire a full employer to cut down on operational costs. Most medical coders set their own hours and rates, depending on their specialization and job requirements.
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