The Importance of Medical Coding as it Applies to Big Data Trends in Healthcare

December 26, 2013

Medical Coding, the process by which medical procedures and diagnoses are represented and displayed by universal code numbers, is a system that plays a key role in modern healthcare operations. It allows organizations to communicate effectively with other healthcare systems throughout the US and the world.

Coding allows statistical analysis of diseases and treatments, diagnosis-related group reimbursement, and easier observance and tracking of epidemics or pandemic events. It also helps inform planning with the medical organization's decision support systems.

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The pairing of coding with the hospital's data systems is what makes it such a powerful tool. With new trends in big data, which typically refers to large amounts of data from various sources stored and accessed from one large online data system, coding allows for implementation in even larger and more intriguing ways. For instance, Google Flu and Google Dengue allow for real-time tracking of disease activity, and could be important tools in the field of public health. Looking at data from this perspective might help doctors make more enlightened decisions about care.

Having access to medical trends from many sources informs the practice, and knowledge of these trends could allow more care in the home (devices in the home can measure and relay personal health information), help control costs, and raise patient satisfaction. Previously, getting access to data sets of this size was costly, but nowadays software systems that have access to big data generally aren't costly to users.

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Nuance's Clinical Language Understanding technologies help bridge the gap between structure data analysis and clinical records, helping at an institutional level and on the higher level of big data analysis.

Outside of coded data, this technology could allow notes about patient health to be included in the digital analysis. When paired with analyzed coded data, doctors could have access to vast predictive abilities for patients, and hospitals can track any number of useful pieces of information.

Researchers would be able to see trends and analyze incredible amounts of information at scales that are unprecedented. The public health possibilities associated with the power of high-level structural data analysis are exciting and numerous. How does medical coding make this possible? With so much data that is being generated currently, analytic systems need normalized codes to make sense of it all.

This makes medical coding specialists the front line in healthcare data analytics. Coding specialists work in many types of health-related settings, not just in hospitals and doctors' offices. Their ability to code accurately plays a significant role in the development of health systems. Proper medical coding provides valuable diagnostic data that is used for research and education as well as improving patient care.