In this article we’ll share helpful insights on how to outsource medical coding and highlight the 5 best practices we’ve found in our experience of setting up highly productive and engaged remote coding teams for Revenue Cycle departments in U.S. hospitals.


A Better Outsourcing Experience


Do you remember those simple times when coders all worked together in one place under singular leadership? And productivity management was as easy as walking down the hall?


With economic and talent challenges, remote coders have become an essential component to achieve economic or productivity goals.


But outsourcing brings its own complexity. You might have concluded that you have no other choice than to “hold your nose” and endure the frustrations of less control and uneven quality.


It doesn’t have to be this way. Any provider organization can build a remote coding team that lowers cost AND unlocks business value with the right framework in place.


All outsourcing firms promise outstanding quality at a low price. Most offerings sound similar irrespective of the supplier. The result is that many companies can’t distinguish between suppliers, and therefore give price a significant weight in the decision.


But then companies spend more time and money trying to meet their goals than they ever imagined. The problem is that they don’t evaluate suppliers of remote coders on the dimensions that really matter. They hope that in the end, they still save money.


You can have a better experience. You can achieve the promise of outsourcing without the uncertainty. For those benefits to come true, your team needs to follow 5 best practices that will guide your way.


The 5 Best Practices for Outsourcing Medical Coding


Best Practice #1: Defined Process and Project Plans


When using a supplier to provide remote coding services, the first step is to ensure that you can transparently monitor what they intend to do and over what time span. Your supplier should provide a project plan with enough detail to clearly see how the supplier will support your work.


Next, it’s important to make processes explicit. Every step that your organization’s coders follow should be documented. Where there are decisions to be made by a coder, a quality analyst, or a supervisor, there should be supporting documentation to make it clear for them to successfully achieve your intentions.


Best Practice #2: Build a Strong Team


Coding competency is the most obvious requirement to building a high-performing team. For many organizations operating outside of the U.S., common coding certifications in the U.S. are not always pursued. As a result, it’s more difficult to establish coding competency.


But coding certification can be obtained outside of the U.S., and you should insist on it. In our case, Shearwater has built a training program and pipeline to certify coders with AHIMA and AAPC. This certification process takes a long-term investment to build, but it is the best way to ensure high quality performance.


Importantly, there are less tangible components to building a strong team. Your partner should have a recruitment plan and the right support – trainers, managers to oversee production, and a human resources team to ensure that culture is maintained, and policies contribute positively to morale.


Remote teams require the same investment as an internal team. Employees need a reason to work there. They need to understand and believe in company values. And they need to be qualified for the work.


Best Practice #3: Training and Ramping to Production


Beyond recruitment, coders need to be trained to the intricacies of your own coding process. It may seem reasonable to provide training materials to your supplier and allow their training team to “translate” your approach to the team of coders. But there is no substitute for coders receiving training directly from your team. There are nuances and points of emphasis that will be missed otherwise. Get involved with the people doing the work and train the trainer simultaneously.


Leading that first round of training will pay dividends later. It reduces the probability of knowledge gaps and better equips your supplier’s trainer. This is “train the trainer” in practice. While it’s tempting to want to rush to full production, a slow ramp always yields a better outcome.


Once your team has directly interacted with the coding team, future training iterations for coders new to the team can be carried out directly by your supplier without your involvement. But don’t make the mistake of getting completely uninvolved. Ongoing training is crucial.


Best Practice #4: Quality is a Journey


Some organizations regard quality as a function distinct from operations. This is understandable since the individual ensuring quality should remain distinct and independent from the person doing the work.


However, for quality to drive organizational results, it should be integrated thoroughly with all the business. It’s best to align your quality measure with the metrics provided by the supplier.


Quality must adapt its approach over time comprised in 3 categories: 1) Quality Management, 2) Process Excellence, and 3) Quality and Production Reporting. More details on these categories are contained in the downloadable guide below.


Best Practice #5: Infrastructure and Data Security


Finally, ensuring your data is protected is essential. Using an outsourced partner with strict security guidelines and infrastructure lowers the likelihood of appearing on a data breach news headline.


Since your remote coding team will access your system to carry out their work, steps must be taken to ensure that if their network is down, an alternative connection exists.


We recommend accomplishing full redundancy using MPLS Network with dual diverse connectivity. In other words, don’t depend on a single internet infrastructure. This may limit geographic locations. In general, such a setup is available for traditional remote coding teams in the Philippines and India.


Want to Know More or Need Help?


If you’d like an outsourced partner you can trust to set up a remote team of certified, clinical coders, Shearwater can help.


Contact Us today to get started!


Fill out the form below to download our full guide on building a high performing coding team.

Coding Guide Download