A balanced approach to offshore medical coding

Blending the process of medical coding between domestic and offshore resources may be your answer to cheaper, faster, better coding.

A Candid Look Back
Just like many business services, outsourcing coding overseas is not new. But early adopters hoping to reduce coding costs often encountered language and transcription problems along with difficult direct communications with the offshore coding personnel.

Often dealing with offshore resources several time zones away caused significant interruptions in coded-chart turnaround.

While offshore coding rates might be cheaper, the net result was confusion, delays and inaccuracies that led to slower turnaround, added costs for reviews and corrections and delayed compensation from the insurance carrier.

The stigma of those early years persists with those original adopters. They demand the coding control, security, accuracy and clear-cut communication they believe is only possible by keeping their coding in house or outsourcing it to a purely domestic coding company, regardless of the costs.

Times Have Changed
Offshore coding quality has improved dramatically and, in fact, today is on par with domestic coding quality.

Today domestic and offshore coding companies working 24/7 along with vastly improved secured digital communications have obliterated time zone issues and, in fact, have greatly accelerated productivity.

The expansion in the size and complexity of the medical coding world has caused a long-term shortage of qualified coders. More healthcare facilities, more specialties, more diagnosis and procedure codes, and more coding companies have strained the domestic coder supply.

The transition to ICD-10 drove some old-school coders out of the industry.

Offshore coders now are highly educated, well trained, diligent and reliable.

The ever-increasing pressure to reduce healthcare costs, including medical coding, has forced healthcare facilities to either re-examine or keep an open mind to the possibility of offshore outsourcing.

As a practical matter, domestic coding companies have had to look offshore for qualified coders to fill the increasing domestic demand. In the process, they've tried to find a way to offer their clients a lower-cost coding option without the communication issues of the past. Hence the advent of blended coding.

Overcoming Past Perceptions
Leading domestic outsource coding companies have allied themselves with the top overseas coding companies, thereby accessing a deeper coder pool as well as lower coding rates. To ensure streamlined communication, high accuracy and fast turnaround, domestic coding managers oversee their offshore teams, audit the coded charts and handle any communication with the stateside client.

Through these offshore alliances, coding companies achieve very high accuracy rates, quick turnaround and dramatically lower costs. Healthcare facilities enjoy the comfort and convenience of dealing with domestic coding managers while significant cost savings accrue behind the scenes. a

It's Like Business As Usual But Better
Most facilities open-minded enough to try this blended coding approach wouldn't think of returning to an in-house coding department or demand their outsourced coding be purely domestically sourced. Superior coding performance at, say, 40% less cost. What's to complain about?

The quality of offshore coders has improved to the level of the best domestic coders. Their outsource coding partners assure strict adherence to the latest coding rules, ongoing training to remain current and recurring performance testing. Any communication problem has been solved by putting outsource companies' coding managers between the healthcare facility and the offshore resources. To a hospital's coding director, it's like working with a very competent domestic coding company--only far less expensive.

Depending on the size and nature of your healthcare facility and its coding volume and complexity, outsourced blended offshore coding may be well worth examining for a significant cost savings.

Jerry Mason is Executive Vice President of KIWI-TEK (kiwi-tek.com), a 14-year-old, total-outsource coding company providing blended coding solutions to healthcare facilities across the nation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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