Doctors’ Use of For-Profit Algorithms Considered UnSportsManLike Conduct

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On Protecting Medical Coding Jobs

By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS

The US government moves quickly to protect tedious upcoding jobs from being taken over by upcoding software.

Medical Billing and Coding for Dummies

In coding expert Karen Smiley’s July 2012 book, “Medical Billing and Coding for Dummies,” she writes: “It really does pay to be a certified medical biller/coder, no matter what designation you choose to pursue. Surveys conducted by the AAPC [American Academy of Professional Coders] indicate that coder salaries have continued to increase despite economic downturns. One possible reason for this is that getting payers to pay claims is becoming increasingly difficult.”

Call me cynical, but to me, her defense of the coding profession confirms that healthcare’s increasing demand for highly-paid coders (who have nothing to do with directly providing care to patients) is artificial, and originates with an administration which complicates providers’ payments in order to create new, high-paying jobs in the HIT industry – quietly adding to the cost of healthcare to cosmetically boost employment figures before an election. Who ultimately pays the bill for all non-productive healthcare costs?

Amazon Morphs

Less than 3 months following the appearance of “Medical Billing and Coding for Dummies” on Amazon for under $25 (paperback), EMR software suddenly changed or morphed the entire game, and the administration reacts by changing the rules to protect political investments.

Similar to algorithmic trading’s proven advantage over low-tech investors on Wall Street, the computation capabilities of modern EMRs allegedly provide an unfair advantage to doctors and hospitals, and at taxpayers’ expense – according to HHS and Justice Department officials.

Enter Eric Holder and Kathleen Sebelius

“On Monday [September 24], Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a strongly worded letter warning that the Obama administration will not tolerate hospitals’ attempts to ‘game the system’ by using EHR systems to boost Medicare and Medicaid payments.” – iHealthBeat, September 26, 2012.

This was followed by an article posted yesterday, also on iHealthBeat titled, “Mostashari To Launch Review of Using EHRs for ‘Upcoding,’”

Enter the NCHIT

“National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari MD plans to launch an internal review to determine whether electronic health record systems are prompting some health care providers to overbill Medicare by selecting higher-paying treatment codes, a process known as ‘upcoding,’ the Center for Public Integrity reports.”

Apparently, it only recently occurred to lawmakers that the EMRs they promote greatly simplify Medicare’s intentionally tedious and time-consuming reimbursement requirements mentioned by Karen Smiley – making profits much easier for providers without having to hire even more staff just to get paid for work done long ago. In addition, the alleged upcoding software threatens to eliminate the need for recently-graduated coding professionals – whose education was backed by ARRA stimulus (taxpayer) money. While our nation’s leaders might wink at institutional investors’ highly-profitable algorithmic trading on the stock market, unemployed coding specialists with outstanding college loans would only increase the potential embarrassment for the administration should doctors and hospitals be permitted to computerize billing decisions – leading to payment for services previously given away because they weren’t worth the hassle and expense of documentation!


Unlike investors playing the stock market, according to Medicare’s emerging rules, doctors’ use of algorithms to increase profits is considered unsportsmanlike conduct. With the election only days away, can you blame them?


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One Response

  1. For ransom – Your Medical Records

    Darrell – With digital information so vulnerable to hackers, the need for greater security is growing.

    Case in point – One medical practice’s data breach story on above link.



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