During the current Covid-19 crisis it might seem like a wise idea to reassign coders from elective specialties to specialties that are currently seeing an increase in volume.  We have resources in one part of the organization that are not being utilized, why not move them over temporarily to where we need extra resources? 

Unfortunately coding does not lend itself well to reassigning coders who are not specialty-specific experts.  There is no such thing as a coder who knows it all. If your coder claims to be able to code every specialty, and you let them, make sure you are prepared to either handle a large denial queue or write recoupment checks to your payors .  With over 70,000 ICD-10 codes and 10,000 CPT codes, expecting a singular coder to have a solid enough grasp on any specialty given the number of codes, differences in anatomy, physiology, and procedures involved in that specialty is simply not realistic.

Even if you’re talking about a coder switching over to only one different specialty, having them do so in the short term is challenging and without proper auditing procedures in place, could end up costing your organization more money than having a specialist in that discipline tackling it the first time around.  Moreover, expecting a coder to learn a new specialty and code it accurately while doing so from a home setting that they are unaccustomed to working in without their usual access to tools and colleagues to ask clarifying questions is particularly trying.

Having a coder who is unfamiliar with a specialty to start coding a specialty because they are an Just because a coder is an expert in one discipline doesn’t mean they’re going to transition seamlessly into a new specialty.  If and when they fail to meet the challenge, your organization is asking for compliance and revenue troubles down the line. Insurance companies know that groups are going to be reassigning coders to specialties that they are unfamiliar with. They are going to review cases very closely during and after this crisis to claw back any missed revenue opportunities that they can find.  Making the right choice now to utilize specialty coders will make getting back to normalcy all the easier when COVID-19 restrictions are non-emergent services are lifted.