icd-10Just as analgesics relieve pain and help the body return to a state of normalcy, Computer Aided Coding (CAC) may have the same effect on coder productivity in a post ICD-10 world. CAC applications may be able to mitigate much of the productivity loss expected from coders at ICD-10 go-live.  If done properly, industry experts predict that CAC systems will provide a 10-20 percent productivity gain for clinical coders. However, “done properly” is the operative phrase.

Effective implementation of a CAC solution requires the same thoughtful approach utilized in any other successful technology deployment.  There are no “plug and play” solutions in healthcare anymore.  Organizations must develop realistic timelines and expectations for CAC deployments and be willing to do end-to-end testing to ascertain the realistic impact and benefits of its use.  Potential impact and actual impact are miles apart.  We must learn from our past naiveté and enter into this next generation of HIM technology with our eyes wide open.

NOT a Magic Elixir

What CAC will NOT do is replace your coders.  It is not a magic elixir.

CAC systems perform well only when complete, accurate, and terminology rich documentation is fed into them.  CAC can only code what is provided to them in electronic format.  These systems only recognize and read digitized data. Scanned or handwritten text simply will not suffice.

Even analyzing the digitized data is a skill set that is best accomplished by well trained coders. Hidden details and nuances are the realm of human coders.

It is estimated that in the months following ICD-10 adoption coder productivity will decrease significantly, most reports forecast an initial drop of as much as 50 percent and sustained losses of 20%, optimistically. CAC may be able to make up most of that downside – but only if you get it up, running, tuned, and integrated into your workflow soon.  This is a process best perfected before the ICD-10 storm hits.  Plus, if you are going to dual code in order to test – you will want to integrate your CAC into that testing.

For more information about the relationship between CAC and ICD-10, read our earlier blog on the 5 Steps to Continue for ICD-10.