Fast Forward: What Medical Billing and Coding Will Look Like in 2020
What will life be like in 2020? Or, more importantly for medical billers and coders, what changes will be made to the health industry over the next decade? While it can be fun to speculate about the distant future of any career, 2020 is not far away; in fact, it’s right around the corner. Before spending precious time and money on certification and training to become a medical biller and coder, it would be valuable to gain some insight into whether the industry will still new workers, and to consider the importance of honing new skills that might become valuable for medical billers and coders in 2020. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to a time machine to view the medical billing and coding industry of the future. However, we do have access to professional advice and historical trends that can help make a few educated assumptions and predictions regarding what you can expect in the next decade.
First, let’s take a look at how the codes themselves will change, as you can expect the next update to hit in only a few years.
The medical billing and coding world is buzzing about the upcoming International Classification of Diseases update – ICD-10, scheduled to be put in place on October 1, 2013. By most accounts, the current ICD-9 code set, which was published in 1977, is out of date, and an update is long past due. Indeed, ICD-10 presents astronomical changes to the current code set, expanding the index to around five times the number of codes that ICD-9 currently offers. One of the major reasons for this update is the large amount of new diseases that have been discovered, or better explained, in the past 20 years. Also, there have been some new medications found to be effective in treating some diseases since 1977, all of which need new standardized codes.
There is a common myth that the only disease science has ever cured is smallpox. So, it would be appropriate to review a few of the more recent developments that have been made in medicine, which now must be reflected in the new ICD-10 code set. Keep in mind that new diseases are not the only things that require additional codes. Treatments and new medicines, like vaccines, need standardized codes as well.
Chicken Pox – Prior to 1995, most children suffered from chicken pox at some point – it had become a rite of passage similar to having your tonsils removed. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw this as a bit more serious of a problem, reporting 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths from the disease that year. The result was the first effective chicken pox vaccine being approved in 1995.
Hib Disease – Also referred to as the invasive Haemophilus flu, Hib disease was a major problem before a vaccine was developed in 1985. While it’s largely extinct in developed countries today, this deadly flu virus continues to be a deadly threat and caused an average of 386,000 deaths — nearly all are children — around the world in the year 2000, according to the World Health Organization. These deaths occur mostly in undeveloped or developing countries in which citizens do not have access to the vaccine.
Smallpox – Smallpox is indeed the only disease that looks to be done away with for good. Scientists took this disease very seriously, and rightly so, as it killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century alone. The vaccine was so effective that the only remaining smallpox viruses are in United States laboratories. The U.S. government stopped administering smallpox vaccines in 1972 and, by 1979, the disease was listed as extinct.
For more information on ICD-10 and the changes medical billers and coders can expect, see our article “Guide to Understanding the Upcoming Medical Coding Language.”
Will there be medical billing and coding jobs available in 2020? How much can you expect to earn as an entry level employee in the industry? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that employment for medical transcriptionists is expected to increase by 11%, and medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase by 20% through 2018. The BLS also shows that there are 176,090 people around the United States with a job related to medical billing and coding, with an average annual salary of $35,010. Keep in mind that this number varies depending on many things, such as where you work and who you work for.
The Rise of Electronic Records
Increased jobs and a brand new coding language are not the only changes medical billers and coders can expect. Technological advancements in computers are already bringing about change in the field. As states like Mississippi continue to develop statewide electronic health records systems and make paperwork a thing of the past, computer skills are also becoming an essential trait that all medical billers and coders will need to develop when seeking employment in the industry.
But not all researchers are calling this computerization push a positive thing. There are concerns that electronic medical records can leave patients open to violations of their privacy. The L.A. Times reports that UCLA hospitals had to pay a pricey settlement for a lawsuit resulting from several hospital employees illegally accessing the electronic medical records of dozens of celebrities who had been patients there, including Britney Spears, Maria Shriver, and Farrah Fawcett.
There has long been suspicion of the security of computerized health records, but the push to make the medical billing and coding industry paperless has continued. So, will most states adopt electronic medical records by 2020? If Mississippi is any indication, medical billers and coders can expect to see electronic statewide medical records databases a great deal sooner. Following the devastation and destruction of many hospital health records along the Gulf Coast caused of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mississippi began developing a plan to bring medical records into the electronic future. By 2007, they had created a new system called the Mississippi Coastal Health Information Exchange, designed to computerize health records along the six coastal counties in the state. By 2015, Mississippi is expected to refine their computerized medical records system across the state by working with a private company called Hielix to construct their four-year implementation plan, according to a MedHealthWorld report.
Decoding the Future
For the most part, medical billers and coders have a bright and promising future ahead of them, especially by 2020. A new code set current with the issues of today will make for more accurate coding and billing. More jobs and higher pay make medical billing and coding a wise career choice. Technology will make its inescapable presence known in the next decade, and it will perhaps, as advancements are made continuously, impact the health industry in a positive way.
But, even with the new technology, the real life medical billers and coders will be there to continue to lead the American health system towards its overall goal – the safety and comfort of the people it serves. So, whether you choose to enter a medical billing and coding career today or tomorrow, it’s in your best interest to prepare to the best of your abilities for both the challenges we face now, and the challenges yet to come.