As we all brace for ICD-10-CM/PCS, questions about coding staffing have emerged. Will coding managers need to hire additional coders? If so, how many? What if your coders are already falling behind in discharge-not-final-billed (DNFB) accounts? Can hiring additional staff members help to combat this problem?

 The U.S. Labor Department projects nearly 38,000 more health information technician jobs will be created from 2010 to 2020, a 21% increase. There simply won’t be enough coders to meet the demand—particularly during the transition to ICD-10-CM/PCS when a hospital’s revenue will be most vulnerable.

In times of budget cuts and an increased focus on ‘lean’ process improvement, determining whether—and when—to hire additional coders is anything but easy. It takes planning, budgeting, and a whole lot of data collection.

Know your numbers

First, coding managers must know their average annual case volumes (i.e., number of inpatients, outpatient surgeries, outpatient diagnostic tests, observations, and ED visits). They must also know productivity expectations for each type of case (i.e., how long it takes coders to code each type of record).

Next, managers must calculate the number of hours that each coder actually spends coding annually. Account for time spent attending meetings, performing research, performing non-coding tasks, taking breaks, etc. Also account for vacation and sick time. Total this number for all coders in the department. Then divide case volumes by the actual number of coding hours for all staff members to determine the number of necessary FTEs.

Is your head spinning yet? The analysis certainly becomes more complicated when there are monthly shifts in case volume or other major changes in the department, such as ICD-10-CM/PCS.

 Coding calculator availablecoding budget calculator

The good news is that TrustHCS makes the process a whole lot easier. Its newly-released coding calculator allows coding managers to determine the exact number of coders necessary to run the department efficiently. Managers simply enter basic information about their department (e.g., current number of FTEs, expected start/end dates for dual coding, and current/target DNFB), and a TrustHCS expert provides a month-by-month budget of resources necessary to support department goals. It’s that simple—and it’s free!

The customized plan includes:

  • The number of staff you need to operate at full capacity
  • The number of supplemental coding hours necessary to keep DNFB low while coders perform dual coding
  • Budget increases necessary to avoid backlogs from ICD-10-CM/PCS productivity dips

Once you’ve determined staffing volume, consider these other important questions:

  • Will you work with a coding staffing company to provide services, or will you hire an FTE?
  • Will you hire a specialized coder or someone who can code all record types?
  • Will you require the coder to have undergone some type of ICD-10-CM/PCS training already?
  • What skills will you seek? For example, will you hire a coder who has experience with data analysis and who can assist with reports? Will you hire a coder who has experience working as a CDI specialist?
  • Will you consider remote coding?
  • What personal traits/attributes are you looking for?

2014 is crunch time for ICD-10. Know your staffing impact now and plan accordingly. We’re always here to help.