Hospitals adopting computer-assisted coding software will confront fears from their coding staff and should make it clear that the technology will aid coders, not replace them, says Danielle Berthelot, health information management director at 229-bed Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.

Above all, when considering such software, avoid vendors that pitch their technology as a replacement for coders, she advises. “That’s never going to happen. I would be very wary of that, and of not having someone responsible for coding compliance.”

Woman’s Hospital piloted the computer-assisted coding software of Salt Lake City-based 3M Health Information Systems and now has fully implemented the application. “You really need to prepare the coders, be honest about what you’re doing and let them have input,” Berthelot says. She spoke with Health Data Management during the AHIMA Convention & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

Berthelot told coders that the hospital wanted to implement the software to gain increases in productivity and accuracy but with no intention to replace anyone. Computer-assisted coding, she explained, is just another tool like an encoder and the Physicians Desk Reference. “A lot of people just push change on their staff and expect them to accept it.” Over time, coders seeing their productivity going up and being able to easily find data to make the coding better pushes them toward acceptance.

To be successful with the technology, coders need to still have the final say in selecting codes, particularly to comply with various regulations, Berthelot says. “There are some things you want your coders to validate.”

--Joseph Goedert


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