Will We Need Billing Codes Once We Have Nice Structured EHR Clinical Data?

I had a really fascinating discussion recently with @AlexHBurgess where we discussed the role of billing codes in an EHR today and also the future of billing codes as EHR notes get much better and more granular. This is particularly interesting to me as I’m at the HealthPort HIM Summit the next couple days.

Here’s the question that started the conversation:

This was @AlexHBurgess’s response:

And then I replied:

The last question is something worth chewing on. I’ll have to ask it of a few HIM managers the next couple days. I think the simple answer is that we’ll still likely need billing codes. I don’t think that our payers are forward thinking enough or at least progressive enough to try and push forward a non-billing code reimbursement system. It’s pretty interesting to think about though.

The second reason I don’t think it’s likely to happen is that the data in the EHR will likely not be good enough. Although, if the data in the EHR (and not just the billing codes that were selected) were how you got paid, then you’d see a dramatic improvement in the quality of the EHR data. So, maybe it’s not a bad idea after all. I’m pretty sure my medical billing friends would scoff at this idea as they think about the number of times they’ve had to have doctors correct something in the paper chart to make sure the billing was ok.

Long story short, I think that you could theoretically get rid of medical billing codes and just use EHR data for reimbursement. However, in practice I don’t really see this ever becoming a reality. At least not in the short to medium term.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

1 Comment

  • I would love to see that happen but as you say John this is not likely to be the case anytime soon. There are a lot of reasons why using claims/billing codes are such poor proxies and abstractions to perform risk stratification and it would be preferred that actual clinical data and not some downstream proxy was used to do that.

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