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Coding is the health IT revolution everyone cheers

EMScribe is a patented, computerized coding system that can scan electronic records, even paper documents, and add the relevant billing codes.

Health IT remains controversial.

Despite $19.2 billion in subsidies which were made part of last year's stimulus, many clinicians remain reluctant to automate.

But they all need to get paid. Getting paid means mastering the arcane codings of either CPT or ICD-9, which is in the process of being replaced by the five-times larger ICD-10. Coders are in short supply, and they're human -- they make mistakes.

A small Eatonton, NJ company with the arcane name of Artificial Medical Intelligence has the answer. It's called EMScribe, a patented, computerized coding system that can scan electronic records, even paper documents, and add the relevant billing codes.

COO ScottStuart Covit said hospitals can buy the software on a per-bed basis, or it can be bought by hospitals and clinics as a service, with a per-chart charge.

"On the surface hospitals are electronic, but in the back room where the coding is done, and the billing is done, that is still for the most part done by hand." Clinics using templates or charts with pick lists for their specialty may be more automated.

Hospitals can get a return on their EMScribe investment within weeks or months, he said. "In some cases we can process 125,000 records per day. That would normally take an army" of coders. Among the recent customers are the Adventist Health System in Florida and Butler Health in Pennsylvania.

EMScribe also has an anti-fraud system which can detect patterns indicating fraud. It's easy, consistent, takes less time, and checks its own work against the past to make sure both doctors and patients are behaving honestly -- who can be against that?

But what happens to the coders, I asked? Those now working in hospitals become more like editors, checking the work of doctors and software. Those working in outsourcing companies can find other work -- Covit said there's presently a shortage of 18% in the coding area. (They're in demand, but it's not going to last.)

The fact that EMScribe works with paper records as well as electronic ones means it's a system anyone can get behind. Covit said it can interface with major Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and that the firm works through some re-sellers as well as selling direct.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com