Coding productivity and accuracy: An action plan for improvement

Dec. 10, 2018 / By Katie Patterson, CPC

Throughout my career in coding, whether it was as a production coder, a coding supervisor, or my current role as an analyst, there has always been great discussion and debate around how to improve coder productivity and accuracy.  

As we all know, coding can be very subjective and there are many factors that can influence the productivity of coder A compared to coder B. Consider the following:

  • Coder A may have a greater understanding of anatomy and medical terminology than coder B.
  • Coder B may be overly concerned about meeting productivity requirements possibly causing more mistakes to be made.
  • Coder A may not be utilizing coding tools properly or may need additional training.
  • Coder B maybe misinterpreting coding guidelines or internal policy.

In my experience, consistency is key. Maintaining a training plan and implementing QA measures can make a huge difference. This allows for identification of learning gaps and educational needs. Your staff will also know the value that is placed on their work which in turn gives them a greater sense of pride. Furthermore, cost reduction will be seen with the decrease of denials and accounts receivable corrections.

There are a few key ways to increase productivity and accuracy. These may seem simple but, in my opinion, they can result in great coder gains.

  • Stop interruptions: On average it may take up to 23 minutes for a coder to return to a deep level of concentration after being interrupted. Large blocks of time should be given between meetings to allow for better concentration and training staff should turn off email or instant message notifications to allow for less distraction. Also, consider keeping coders out of high traffic areas in the office. Less distraction means more action!
  • Limit non-coding tasks: Being pulled away from your coding brain can reduce productivity. It goes back to the need for deep concentration. Not to say there isn’t a need to do additional coding-related tasks, but if you have a coder who is being pulled to assist with non-coding related duties you may want to reassess their workflow.
  • Utilize computer-assisted coding: CAC is a great tool for increasing coder productivity. Coders will no longer need to dig through coding books, they will automatically be alerted to CCI and LCD edits, and they will be presented with auto-suggested codes, which will in turn increase accuracy.

In summary, keeping a close eye on your coding staff’s workflow, providing consistent training and expectations, and implementing a quality assurance program will go a long way in increasing accuracy and productivity.

Katie Kitchen is a senior coding analyst at 3M Health Information Systems.

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