By Andrew Lockhart, CEO, Fathom Health.
Healthcare has a vibrant startup and innovation ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean everyone shares the perks that come with technological developments. Historically, payors have often been ahead of the game in adopting and benefiting from new tech, forcing providers to play catch up.
But artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the game. A persistent trend I’ve witnessed is the steady rise of providers prioritizing technology – especially AI – to inform strategic priorities and address chronic headwinds such as staff shortages, increasing cost pressures, and slow reimbursement times, to name a few.
As healthcare leaders catch on to the enormous potential of AI to combat thorny issues, AI will take center stage next year, reshape the larger healthcare ecosystem, and begin to even the playing field between payor and provider.
As the end of the year approaches, here’s how I see this playing out in 2024:
Autonomous medical coding will be widespread — if not the norm.
The latest health IT report from Bain & Company and KLAS Research highlights the increasing importance of software and technology. Per the report, 70% of providers think AI will have a more significant impact on their organizations this year vs. last year, and an impressive 56% of those surveyed view software and technology as one of their top three strategic priorities, with revenue cycle management (RCM) coming in at a resounding first place. With many health systems focused on reducing administrative burdens for clinicians and a continued shortage of medical coders, autonomous coding adoption will surge.
Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT won’t work as advertised.
There’s plenty of commotion about the capabilities of language models, but they will likely disappoint when functioning as the core of autonomous coding engines. However, they will be enormously valuable in solving smaller pieces and edge cases, pushing coding automation rates to 100% for all the high-volume outpatient specialties.
AI medical coding will increase clinician bandwidth.
Medical coding is time-consuming and expensive, and has historically been one of the largest pain points for doctors and nurses. As most specialties turn to medical coding AI and approach 100% automation, health organizations will see massive improvements in accuracy, reduced denials, and increased overall reimbursement. Fully autonomous coding eliminates repetitive and tedious work, reducing burnout and increasing efficiency. By shaving off a considerable chunk of the administrative workload, autonomous coding frees up doctors and nurses to spend more time with patients and shorten their shifts.
Health systems will deploy autonomous coding to the inpatient setting.
Autonomous coding was born out of a desire to reduce costs for low to moderate-complexity coding. As systems grow in sophistication, it’s quickly becoming apparent that AI is faster, more cost-effective, and more accurate than manual coding. As health systems realize the benefits of AI coding across their high-volume outpatient specialties, they will turn their sights to the inpatient setting – where the coding staffing challenges are most pronounced.
With advancements in technology and AI taking place simultaneously, 2024 will be an exciting year for healthcare. The pace of technological developments, centered around AI, has created meaningful opportunities for providers to stop playing catch-up and address chronic pain points. As more providers embrace technology to accelerate their workflows, they’ll see tangible results like lower costs, reduced staff burnout, and improved revenue capture.