Unbalanced Equilibrium: US States Facing Shortage of Medical Coders in Spite of High Supply

As if hospital shortages of nurses and pharmacists were not enough, the shortage of medical coders has risen to high levels in some areas in the US and physicians need to act fast least they lose millions of dollars in unbilled charges. American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has reported a nationwide shortage of certified medical coders in hospitals, physician practices, and other healthcare facilities, with the most critical shortage in the northeastern and western parts of the country.

President of Provider HealthNet Services Health Information Management Inc. estimates a nationwide shortage of almost 30%. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. hospitals will need a large number of new medical record and medical health technicians to replace those who are leaving the field now.

Imbalanced scales

On the upside with the increasing demand for coders, their role in health management is expanding, however there is a nationwide shortage of credentialed coding professionals, Coders already present in the profession are facing a difficult time keeping up with the various changes demanded by the industry. There are a multitude of circumstances contributing to this shortage-most graduates are unaware about medical record coding professions, while ongoing changes in the coding profession make it difficult for even skilled coders to keep up. A recent American Hospital Association survey showed that about 18% of billing and coding positions remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.

Many hospitals are also beginning to implement internal measures to ease the shortage: upgraded pay scales; sign-on bonuses; flex-time and overtime opportunities; scholarship programs for coding education; online training programs; in-house training for internal employees; and increased use of freelance coders.

Increased demand for coders

Coding is highly critical to a physicians practice as any discrepancy in this area can result in high penalties. The scope of health information management (HIM) has grown significantly over the past five years. The health care system has employed a number of techniques to combat the shortage, including contract services. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical billing and coding demand is projected to increase by nearly 20% by 2018.

Coders are an integral part of a health care system playing a key role in reimbursement and processing claims. Medicialbillersandcoders.com is the largest consortium of medical billers and coders in the US providing updated knowledge, placement opportunities and analyzing current salary trends.