Electronic Encoders: Friend or Foe?
In today’s day and age, everything seems to be about technology, instant gratification, quicker turn around as well as more for less. I can say that I have seen and worked within the concept of “more for less” for many years and it just seems to be the nature of our society today, or so it would seem. So as we look at the transition of health care and the migration of medical records to electronic health records, this has actually managed to create a new vein of career paths in the health care field within our environment, which is great. Along these same lines now emerges electronic encoders. It is the opinion of this blog writer that encoders are positive and negative in a few different ways in the coding world for the profession coder and I am going to share why.
Encoders are great tools to help increase production standards because you can save time searching for your codes by having the system do the work for you. They have built in references that are wonderful to have at your fingertips and not have to leave your work station to locate or search the all mighty web. Not all working environments give their employees access to the internet so the fact that the encoder programs could possibly provide medical dictionaries, CPT Assistants, drug listings, Coding Clinics, anatomy diagrams, ICD-9 guidelines, and GEM guidelines would be invaluable to the work flow for a coder. Not to mention the space it would safe from having all of these references in the work space. Some encoders also come with other administrative functions that assist us to conduct research on specific procedures as well as individual payer information. So there are some real great benefits that come with an encoder software package, depending on what is purchased and implemented in the working environment.
So you probably are wondering then, why would I even be asking why an encoding product would be a Foe in the world of a coder? Here is my reason why. Coding is a skill that we work extremely hard to learn and perfect. Hours, months and years of time go into learning what we know and how we do what we do in our line of work. Encoders are a great tool but can also spoil and ruin us as coders, if we allow them to. If a coder becomes too reliant on an encoder, this is a bad thing. If a coder becomes to “comfortable” coding with an encoder, this is a bad thing. A coder needs to use their skills that they have built or they lose these skills over time. They may not lose them completely but they can become very rusty for sure. It is good practice to still manually code from time to time. It is good for the brain to keep your fingers in your coding references so you remember how your books work, where to find everything, keeping your skills fresh on crosswalks and modifiers.
Things to keep in mind is that even if your working environment is using an encoding product, not everything in the coding world is and remember that to maintain your coding certification, you have tom complete continuing education credits. Many of these continuing education credits are manual coding exercises. If you look to gain any additional certifications above the certifications you already carry, these will be manual coding exams. Not to mention, it is really difficult to put your personal coding notes in an encoder program but you have the luxury to place them anywhere you would like in your personal coding reference.