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Catalysts for change: Medical Coding from the 1960s to today, and beyond

How technological advances in medical coding shape the patient experience

Coding and coding technologies have undergone a dramatic – and rapid – evolution. What began as a manual, paper-based process involving massive ICD-9-CM diagnostic and procedural code manuals, typewriters, and file folders have, in the span of a few short decades, transformed into a highly specialized digital cloud-based process bolstered by predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and natural language processing (NLP).

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Follow the evolution of medical coding from the 1960s to today, and discover the emerging technologies that will power a more automated future

Key findings

In the early days, medical coders worked in hospitals. Once a patient was discharged, they would work with the facility’s chargemaster on a patient chart containing upwards of 80-100 pages of handwritten notes to cull codable details of the patient encounter by referencing coding manuals

The tech boom of the 1980s brought forth the emergence of affordable, powerful, and compact hardware. Personal computers and the Internet became more prevalent, providing faster and easier access to medical information, and tools that made putting together lengthy reports a walk.

By 2015, electronic health record (EHR) systems had made their way into the mainstream. Physicians began documenting fully electronically, and information could easily be shared between departments or even institutions, such as multi-location hospital systems, pharmacies, and laboratories.

In the future, medical coding will leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. Bots, or Robotic Process Automation (RPA), will be used for repetitive and manual tasks like claims reviews, leaving the more complex and meaningful work to their human counterparts.

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