The medical coder shortage is a real and pressing problem in the United States (US). According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Professional Coders, 70% of medical practices are experiencing a shortage of coders. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) conducted a survey in August 2023, which revealed that medical practices are facing an ongoing challenge in finding and hiring sufficient revenue cycle management (RCM) staff.
According to the survey, 34% of medical groups find it difficult to hire medical coders, while 26% percent have difficulty in finding and hiring medical billers. The survey also found that 33% of respondents struggle to find schedulers and staff to manage prior authorizations. Additionally, 7% of those surveyed found it challenging to hire billing managers, provider credentialing staff, front-office staff, and patient engagement representatives.
Impact Of Medical Coder Shortage
The medical coder shortage has several negative consequences for both medical practices and patients. For medical practices, the shortage can lead to coding backlogs, delayed payments, and increased administrative costs. For patients, the shortage can lead to longer wait times for appointments and care, and it can also make it more difficult for patients to get their claims processed correctly.
The healthcare staffing crisis has also led to other repercussions in the revenue cycle, including a rise in claims denials, reduced staff productivity and morale, and missed opportunities to generate revenue.
Addressing Medical Coder Shortage Issues
What most healthcare organizations don’t understand is the underlying causes of the RCM/medical coder staffing shortage. For instance, are medical practice managers struggling to find personnel with specific credentials, a certain number of years of experience, or expertise in particular medical specialties?
The good news is that there are several things that medical practices can do to solve the medical coder shortage and improve cash flow.
- Cross-train existing revenue cycle staff to handle coding duties.
- Consider offering part-time or shared positions for healthcare workers.
- Explore remote work options for coding roles.
- Automate certain aspects of the revenue cycle to reduce the workload. For example, incorporating AI-powered tools for medical coding and medical billing.
- Develop internship or apprenticeship programs to train new coders.
One of the effective ways for medical practices to address the staffing shortage issue is by implementing artificial intelligence (AI) tools and partnering with revenue cycle management outsourcing vendors. This can be particularly useful when a practice cannot find the necessary coding expertise, is located in a highly competitive area, or is experiencing significant growth and struggling to manage an increased volume of claims.
Read More: Will AI replace medical coders?
Additional ideas to tackle the medical coder shortage include:
- Improve Work Conditions: Enhance working conditions to attract and retain coders. This can include shorter workweeks, flexible scheduling, or offering non-financial benefits like professional development opportunities.
- Competitive Compensation: Ensure that your compensation packages for coders are competitive. Refer to industry salary reports to determine appropriate pay levels for your region and the level of experience required.
- Invest in Education: Support the education and professional development of your coding staff. This can include offering annual bonuses, sharing savings from value-based payer contracts, and encouraging coders to pursue additional certifications.
- Comprehensive Recruitment Strategy: Expand your recruitment strategy beyond job postings. Utilize recruitment agencies, advertise on social media, host job fairs, and build relationships with local medical coding schools to attract top talent.
- Mentorship Programs: Implement mentorship programs within your practice to help new coders learn from experienced professionals. This can accelerate their proficiency and confidence.
- Certification Assistance: Offer support for coders seeking certifications or advanced training. This investment in their professional development can make your practice more attractive to potential hires.
- Retirement Transition Plans: Create transition plans for coders nearing retirement to ensure knowledge transfer and a smooth handover of responsibilities to younger staff.
- Stay Informed: Stay updated on the evolving needs and trends in medical coding. This will help you adapt your strategies to match the evolving demands of the profession.
By implementing these strategies, medical practices and RCM organizations can better cope with the medical coder shortage and secure the skilled professionals needed to maintain efficient revenue cycle management.
In conclusion, whether for the short or long term, partnering with the right revenue cycle and medical coding outsourcing provider can help medical practices alleviate the challenges of attracting and retaining revenue cycle professionals. When combined with efficient AI technology solutions, revenue cycle outsourcing and other strategies can assist practices in addressing the healthcare staff shortage effectively.
To learn more about how MediCodio can help during the healthcare labor shortage and beyond, and for additional insights, best practices, and industry trends, be sure to visit the MediCodio Blogs.
For more info: Medical Group Management Association