Medical coders play a key role in providing essential support for hospital and outpatient services. They are the health information management professionals responsible for reviewing all tests, diagnoses, procedures, results and medications and assigning them a code for billing and record keeping purposes.

However, an alarming problem facing healthcare institutions is the shortage of medical coding staff. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) projects an 18 percent increase in the number of health information technology/management jobs to be filled through 2016. The medical coders’ role in assuring that all information is accurate and complete is crucial to the economic well-being of the hospital since their entries determine the amount of reimbursement for patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance programs. Inaccurate or inappropriate coding can lead to fraud and abuse; therefore, the healthcare institution’s compliance with government rules and regulations depends in part on effective coder performance.

Recognizing the urgency of this critical shortage, the trustees approved the creation of the 1199SEIU/League Training and Upgrading Fund Medical Coding Task Force in 2011. This Task Force, composed of management, the union, medical coders and the Training Fund, worked to recommend solutions for filling current and anticipated medical coding openings as well as upgrading the knowledge and workplace skills of incumbent coders. The Task Force created three committees – Education and Schools, Experience, and Workplace Skills – and charged them with addressing the following challenges:

1. Identifying the best quality coding education with an emphasis on education that prepares students for Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) certification examination;

2. Creating a pathway for new graduates to obtain the necessary experience to obtain employment as coders; and

3. Assisting coders and institutions in preparing for the transition to ICD-10.

This report explains their work. For more information, contact Kendell Jackson at [email protected].

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