Find-A-Code Focus Newsletter

Article: CAC vs. FAC

May 30, 2012

Computer Assisted Coding (CAC) and Find-A-Code

A common question we hear from coders is “how does the Find-A-Code tool fit in with CAC?”

The terms computer assisted coding (CAC), auto-coding, natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU) all generally refer to the use of a computer to read either handwriting or text input (often called “structured data input”).  The computer software then attempts to decipher what medical codes should be assigned to that particular patient encounter based on the documentation on the EHR/EMR encounter record.

Although Find-A-Code seems like it could be considered a CAC, since coders use Find-A-Code on their computer for help with their coding, Find-A-Code is not strictly a CAC.  A CAC system “reads” and analyzes text (in the EMR/EHR) to determine what codes are appropriate.  Find-A-Code is designed to be a highly indexed, easily searchable, comprehensive library of coding and billing information.  

Find-A-Code is an excellent complementary tool for any CAC system.  After the CAC identifies suggested codes for the record a human needs to validate them - or if the computer is stumped (which happens occasionally) - the Find-A-Code online library can help the coder to quickly find the appropriate codes.

A human coder review of a CAC generated list of codes is an essential part of an accurate and reliable coding process.  Deborah Kohn, MPH, RHIA, FACHE, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, Principal of Dak Systems Consulting, said in a session at the 2012 HIMSS conference: “Coding professionals still need to review the codes generated by the CAC to ensure accuracy and proper reimbursement.”  She continued to say, “[CAC] allows coders to become editors.”

CAC is an amazing technology that can boost the productivity of coding and billing departments, but the boost in productivity greatly depends on maintaining the quality and accuracy of the coding.  The  review and audit process is critical to avoiding reimbursement denials.

The shift to using CAC and NLP systems does not in anyway decrease the need for accurate, up-to-date coding and billing information and research tools.  If anything, it increases the need for tools and extensive libraries like Find-A-Code.

Although a CAC system may replace some of the tasks performed by a coder such as the initial coding, experienced coders armed with the right reference tools are still required for the review, editing, auditing and denial management processes.

Tools such as Find-A-Code, that incorporate the latest indexing and searching technologies are in high demand by experienced coding professionals.  The most often cited reason for adoption of a Find-A-Code-like reference tool is the simplicity and convenience of having all the required reference materials in a single searchable data source.  Having a single source for needed reference materials increases productivity.

Another commonly mentioned and highly appreciated feature is the ability for data publishers and aggregators, such as Find-A-Code, to keep their databases constantly up-to-date.  A web-based library product is easy to keep up-to-date since the data is always delivered “on demand,” vs. installed PC software or a book, which are limited to the accuracy and timeliness of the data at the time the medium (CD, install file, or book) was published.

Also, as many coders have come to realize, keeping up-to-date with the annual changes in fees that happen at the beginning of the year and the quarterly, monthly and sometimes weekly changes in the codes, can be a full time job in itself.  Books and even PC software cannot deliver the timeliness that an on-demand data source can provide.  Whether it is a full featured data interface such as the website, or a live data stream as provided by Find-A-Code APIs integrated into the workflow, having accurate, up-to-date information can help a coding department maintain or even improve their reimbursement ratios.

When the “coin of the realm” is information, the organization with the most accurate, timely and extensive informational tools and resources is the one that will move ahead and prosper.


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