September 18, 2012

ICD-10: Are You Prepared for the HIM Personnel Impact?

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It’s clear that the coder staffing companies, recruiters and health information management (HIM) consulting companies are ready for ICD-10, but will you be?

The medical records field is listed as a top 10 in-demand healthcare occupation, with faster-than-average projected growth of 18-26 percent through 2016. With the implementation of ICD-10, the need for HIM resources, including coders, auditors, consultants and management personnel, will be even more pressing. According to Allhealthcare.com, the candidate need for this sector is projected to increase by approximately 76,000 health information management positions, with a new job growth change of about 30,000 by 2016.

Success by Acquisition or Training

Non-HIM focused companies are entering into the coding market, as the conversion to ICD-10 will drive up the need for coding resources significantly. As just two examples, two global IT staffing and solution companies recently entered the HIM arena with the acquisition of HIM staffing and consulting companies.

Beyond acquisitions, such companies also are expanding their service offerings to include ICD-10 and HIM consulting services in an effort to meet the demands of the industry. The simple solution to meet the demands of the industry would be to train more coders -– this might offset the productivity impacts associated with ICD-10, but how many CFOs would be comfortable with entry-level coders determining the organizations’ reimbursement?

Coding is more complex than simply assigning a code from a coding book – it takes years of education, training and mentoring to become a seasoned coding resource. Physician clinical documentation challenges, MS-DRG assignments, regulatory compliance and RAC denials, are all aspects of the coding process that must be taken into account.

With the conversion to ICD-10, experienced coding professionals will have an easier transition; however, again, the productivity impact will  drive the need for more coders. Combine that with the need for coding quality reviewers, HIM management and consultants, and you can see why the vendor industry is taking notice and the recent interest in HIM company acquisition has emerged.

A Bull Market for Today’s Candidates

Being in the HIM field for more than 27 years, I have developed close working relationships with several HIM executive recruiters. The one common trend they see is that the recruiting business in this sector is the best it has been in 25 years – and they do not anticipate it slowing down anytime soon. Several firms are adding recruiting staff to meet the demands for HIM personnel.

Recently, two nationally recognized Internet job listing sites posted more than 1,000 active medical coding positions apiece. This does not include other coding-related positions such as auditors, HIM management and HIM and ICD-10 consultants. But these postings include dozens of executive recruiting firms that also have entered the HIM recruiting market, as they too see the increased demand for these professionals.

Plan for a Competitive Industry

With these industry movements, including HIM vendor acquisition, clearer focus on HIM investments and the increasingly competitive job market for HIM talent,  consider the following if you want to preserve your revenue in the future:

  • Develop a retention plan to hold onto your HIM/coding talent.
  • Develop a comprehensive training and education strategy to develop and invest in your coding resources.
  • Secure coder vending contracts for coding support, auditing and education.

HIM coding professionals are valued resources that can impact your ICD-9 and emerging ICD-10 revenues significantly. HIM coder staffing companies, recruiting and HIM consulting companies know this. Without taking the appropriate steps now, you are setting yourself up to pay a premium for their services in the future.

About the Author

John Pitsikoulis, RHIA, is a strategic client executive of advisory services for CTG Health Solutions of Dallas.

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Disclaimer: Every reasonable effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time it was published. However, due to the nature of industry changes over time we cannot guarantee its validity after the year it was published.

John Pitsikoulis, RHIA, is the ICD-10 practice leader and an AHIMA ICD-10-Approved Trainer for Nuance Communications. John has more than 28 years of revenue cycle, health information management, coding, and compliance consulting experience. John has developed and led several corporate and client strategic engagements for managing the conversion to ICD-10, including ICD-10 assessments, implementation planning, integrated testing, education plan management and revenue preservation strategies.