ICD-10 triggers computer-assisted coding adoption

Spurred by the impending transition to the ICD-10 diagnostic code set, nearly half of healthcare providers surveyed by KLAS Research plan to adopt computer-assisted coding (CAC) software within the next two years. Twenty-one percent of providers already use CAC applications, according to the Orem, Utah-based research firm.

Many providers believe that CAC can help them compensate for some of the lost productivity and reimbursement that ICD-10 will bring, KLAS said in its announcement. ICD-10 will require more intensive coding work because it has five times as many codes as the current ICD-9 set.

"Providers worry their staff will not be ready in time for ICD-10," report author Graham Triggs said in a statement. "Though the market is young and no vendor has fully proven itself in the inpatient space, provider confidence that computer-assisted coding technology will ultimately create greater efficiency, productivity, and ICD-10 readiness is high."

This can-do attitude contrasts sharply with providers' cautious attitude toward CAC just a couple of years ago. In a June 2010 articleHealthcare Informatics reported that while a few hospitals were beginning to use CAC on the inpatient side, most of the adoption was confined to outpatient departments such as radiology and pathology.

CAC works well in these areas because their billing is very repetitive and is related to a limited number of medical terms. Inpatient care is much more complex and uses a vast number of terms. Moreover, inpatient records in most hospitals are a hybrid of electronic and paper documents.

That's important, because CAC applies natural language processing to electronic notes and reports, and cannot extract meaning from scanned documents. By identifying key terms related to particular codes, CAC applications can do the initial work of determining correct billing codes; in some cases, they can pick the right codes without human intervention.

The leading vendor in the field is 3M, which recently acquired CodeRyte, another major CAC firm. Other vendors identified in the KLAS report include OptumInsight, Dolbey, M-Modal, PlatoCode, and Precyse. KLAS also mentioned Cerner and QuadraMed--both of which have CAC modules in their hospital information systems.

To learn more:
- read the KLAS announcement
- see the Healthcare Informatics story