The Importance of Medical Coding as a Universal LanguageMay 30, 2019 No Comments
Featured article by Darryl Kitchener, Independent Technology Author
We are all familiar with the importance of universal computer coding languages and how they facilitate the world-wide communication of information upon which our modern society is based. But parallel to these exists the equally vital world of medical coding, a universal language that is of increasing significance for both correct documentation of procedures and analysis of big data. Medical coding is as important within the healthcare system as Java or Python is to programmers, and it’s increasingly essential for maintaining the services and practices we’ve all come to depend upon.
Medical coding is a way of representing medical procedures and diagnoses in the form of universally-recognized alphanumerical numbers. At ground level, medical coding is invaluable in ensuring that medical billing is accurate. With a unique and universally-recognized code number for every procedure and diagnosis, it’s much easier for bills to be processed effectively and sent on to insurance providers, so that the medical facility is reimbursed for the right amount as promptly as possible.
Medical coding also ensures that patients don’t pay more for their treatments than they should, and that their medical records are accurate, unambiguous and up to date. Medical coding specialists often act as an intermediary between actual medical practitioners (i.e. doctors and nurses) and the hospital’s billing staff. It’s their job to ensure that the correct codes are entered into the hospital’s database, but their responsibilities often go beyond this, as medical coders can play a vital role in maintaining hospital efficiency.
With more US citizens in receipt of healthcare than ever before, and an aging population requiring greater and more sophisticated healthcare treatment, the demand for qualified medical coders is high. Moreover, those with a medical coding certification typically earn 20% more than a coding technician without a certificate. Bryant and Stratton College’s medical coding certification courses include certificates in clinical foundation, an introduction to coding and the AAPC professional medical coding curriculum, taken in order to provide a full qualification in this in-demand field.
With medical coding of increasing importance it’s little wonder that there are a growing number of job openings for certified specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that within the wider area of medical records and health information technicians, which includes medical coding specialists, employment is expected to increase by 15% by the end of 2024. This is over twice the national average.
As a universal language, medical coding also allows healthcare professionals, organizations and systems around the world to communicate effectively and efficiently with each other. Coding facilitates the collection and understanding of big data, which means all kinds of medical information can be more easily tracked, analyzed and observed, leading to quicker and more effective solutions.
Universal coding means that data can be drawn from a wider variety of sources and also allows for a wider-scale implementation of solutions. The more information is available, the more resources can be applied to a problem, and the better the outlook for finding the correct answers. If that information is stored and relayed in a universally recognized code with no scope for misunderstanding, this worldwide data collection and analysis is made so much easier.
In terms of actual patient care, universal medical coding reduces costs and allows for greater levels of home care and remote diagnosis and treatment. Devices in the patient’s own home, including wearable technology, can track and monitor the patient’s condition, relaying information to a central point as well as keeping the patient and their GP informed of any developments in real time. Patient data can be compared to big data and global trends, allowing for the possibility of spotting a valuable correlation that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
In some ways medical coding could be seen as the programming language of the human body. Just as computer coding allows universal programs and solutions to be devised and implemented, and facilitates the very idea of computer networks, so medical coding gives professionals around the world a shared terminology with which to understand healthcare procedures and diagnoses.
Without this, medical treatment could well find itself stuck with very locally-specific terms that frustrate rather than assist the sharing of vital information. Medical coding may not yet allow doctors to reprogram our DNA in order for our bodies to function more efficiently or see off deadly illnesses, but when that day comes, the presence of a universal coding language in medicine will be essential to making it work.
About the Author
A data analyst from the shores of the Wash, Darryl Kitchener enjoys the simple things in life – like a properly formatted Excel sheet and a functional Vlookup command. He uses the spare time gained through his mastery of formulae to apply himself to freelance writing – whenever his cat Dilly can stay off the laptop long enough, anyway.DIGITAL HEALTH