Reimbursement: Computer-assisted coding market to boom

September 12, 2008

By 2014, your patient billing system may remind you about the follow-up visit you forgot to schedule, or warn you about the test you neglected to bill for during your last patient physical.

By 2014, your patient billing system may remind you about the follow-up visit you forgot to schedule, or warn you about the test you neglected to bill for during your last patient physical.

The future, at least according to a report by analyst firm WinterGreen Research, is computer-assisted coding (CAC), which has been around for decades, but thanks to rapid advances in language analysis software, the market is expected to explode from $50.7 million in sales last year to $2.7 billion in 2014.

In the study, "Computer Assisted Coding (CAC) Of Medical Information Market Shares, Forecasts, and Strategies, 2008-2014," WinterGreen President, CEO and study author Susan Eustis writes that the Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology used by these systems is progressing to where it can better recognize ordinary physician dictation, so that the doctor doesn’t have to speak his or her notes in a way that it thinks the computer will recognize. The systems are also becoming faster and more accurate, she says.

While CAC won’t replace human coding experts-there will still be a need to check the computer’s work-it will help reduce paperwork cost of health care delivery, which Eustis estimates, represents 35 percent of the total bill. In the banking industry, paperwork cost is closer to 3 percent she says.

"Automated processes are where it’s at," Eustis says. "This is really important technology, and that’s why I think it will be adopted."

Computer assisted-coding is already popular among radiology and cardiology practices, and, as with any technology, is becoming more affordable. Currently, CAC systems range from $50,000 to more than $1.5 million, Eustis says.