Medical Transcription and the Transition to Coding
The medical transcription industry is currently seeking ways to rebrand itself. With the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity’s (AHDI) announcement of a name change for the profession to healthcare documentation specialist, the industry is making a shift to attempt to rebrand the skill set of the workers.
The move to the electronic health record is changing how healthcare documentation is done and processed. Meaningful use will require structured data, leading to less and less “traditional transcription” in the future. What we have known for years as the “narrative” in healthcare documentation will not meet the requirements for structured data, leaving the industry to deal with some major shifts in how things get done. At the same time, many medical transcriptionists are seeking new career paths where they can use the skills they have, add to them with additional education, and move into something new. Medical coding may be the answer for some.
Why Transcription and Coding Fit
When comparing the two professions, there are many similarities in the knowledge base required for medical transcription and medical coding. Both groups need to have a solid understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. While someone new to coding education has to learn all of those subjects, medical transcriptionists already have that knowledge. Coding requires an understanding of the healthcare documentation process; medical transcriptionists have that understanding. It also requires an ability to abstract patient information quickly and accurately, a skill that medical transcriptionists already possess and use in their day to day work. Research skills are also important in coding, yet another skill that medical transcriptionists have and use daily.
With the anticipated move to the ICD-10 coding system comes a requirement for increased specificity in documentation. This includes such things as acuity, anatomical detail, supporting lab values, and disease processes connected to common manifestations, to name a few. This is knowledge that medical transcriptionists already have or know where to find. In addition, the move to ICD-10 is expected to increase the need for coding personnel and without additional coders, may result in a deficit in the number of people required to complete the volume of work.
What Medical Transcriptionists Need
Not every medical transcriptionist will have the requisite skills to make the transition to coding, and even if they have the skills, some prefer not to consider this alternative. To assure maximum potential for success, one must have a solid command of medical language. Those who have come into the profession and managed to stay in it by simply “knowing how to spell words” aren’t likely to find this a viable option for a future career path.
A strong understanding of anatomy and physiology will be required for ICD-10 coding due to the increased specificity in assigning codes. Without that understanding, claims will be denied and payments will be delayed.
Potential for the Future
Medical transcriptionists who have been in the profession for a long time will share that their compensation for the same amount of work has continued to decrease over the years. The profession has not seen the increased compensation that has been seen in other sectors of the healthcare industry. Much of this may be related to it being one of the few places in health care where those who do the work are compensated in a piece-meal fashion, or paid on production. Yet, salary surveys done in past years both by AHIMA as well as AAPC have shown a consistent rise in compensation for coders. This should not be lost on those who might consider this change in career path.
It may also be that medical transcriptionists find coding a more rewarding profession in how it uses their skill set. Because of its very nature, coding requires one to use the knowledge base they have acquired to complete the work accurately. Many of the skills that drew one to the medical transcription profession are still used—that of solving puzzles and seeking answers–yet without the physical stress of pounding the keyboard all day.
If you attended the webinar we had during MT Week, you learned that we are developing a special coding course for MTs, a way to take that knowledge you have and use it to create a new opportunity for yourself. It’s a work in progress at this point, however, if you’d like to be informed as we make progress with it, you can sign up for our mailing list at the Online Coding Courses website.
How about you? Are you giving any thought into how you will rebrand yourself for the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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