Specialty News & Articles

Medical Coders – Nationwide Changes

By: Sterling Medical Staff

Big changes are underway in the realm of medical coding, as the upcoming industry shift to a new set of codes promises more demand for medical coders than ever before.

On October 1, 2014 the United States is unilaterally switching from the old ICD-9 system of coding to the newer and more advanced ICD-10 system. ICD stands for International Classification of Disease, and volumes of ICD codes are developed and published by the United Nations-sponsored World Health Organization.   ICD-10 is the tenth edition of classification codes released by the WHO, replacing ICD-9 which has been used in the United States since the 70’s.

ICD-10, which was endorsed by the WHO in 1990 and adopted by most countries following its update in 1994, offers many advantages over ICD-9. ICD-9 codes are strictly numeric, consisting of 3-5 digits and allowing for a maximum of 17,000 codes. Not only have many coding chapters reached their limit of possible codes, but many of the codes themselves have become obsolete as diagnostic and procedural practices have developed over the years. In contrast, ICD-10 codes are in line with current medical standards and consist of 3-7 alphanumeric characters, allowing for 155,000 different codes.

So what does this mean for medical coders? For one, the nationwide change to ICD-10 requires a workforce that is familiar with the new codes. As ICD-9 codes will remain the standard until the October 1 deadline, many currently-employed coders may find themselves at a disadvantage if they haven’t yet familiarized themselves with the new codes. Experts anticipate that many companies will need to hire additional coders when the change comes in order to test internal systems and keep things running with minor slowdown1.

Many organizations, such as the American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group, offer training programs for ICD-10. In order to work coders must pass a Certified Coding Associate exam, which is administered by the American Health Info Management Association2. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the job growth rate for medical coders at 22%, making it one of today’s fastest growing fields, and expects over 41,100 new positions by 20223.

While the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 will require a lot of work on behalf of hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, billing companies and more, it also promises a larger workforce more prepared for the future of medicine.


  1. http://www.govhealthit.com/news/during-icd-10-transition-dual-coding-will-take-toll
  2. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11460420.htm
  3. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm

Nurse Practitioners – The Best Kept Secret in Healthcare

By: Sterling Medical Staff

As the Affordable Health Care Act kicks into gear, millions more Americans find themselves with health insurance, and health care providers are faced with the difficult task of accommodating an unprecedented influx of new patients. In the midst of this struggle to meet the needs of our nation’s ill and infirm, Nurse Practitioners may prove to be the single greatest asset in managing this monumental change.

Although Nurse Practitioners have operated in the United States for over 40 years, many people don’t know about them or what kind of services they offer. For this reason, Tay Kopanos, vice president of state government affairs for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners calls them “the best-kept secret in health care.”

Nurse Practitioners hold master’s degrees and perform many of the duties commonly associated with primary care or family practice physicians. The road to becoming a nurse practitioner begins in the field of nursing, where most candidates first obtain a bachelor of science in nursing. Experienced nurses who wish to move to the next step must then achieve a master’s of science in nursing, and finally pass a board certification test before officially becoming a nurse practitioner.

Though nurse practitioners are not a complete substitute for physicians—and laws in nearly every state require they practice under the supervision of an MD—there are areas in which a nurse practitioner may be better suited for care. Studies have shown high satisfaction rates among patients treated by nurse practitioners, perhaps in part because of the bedside manner they develop during their time as nurses. “Local nurse practitioner said their training as nurses follows a different philosophy from a doctor’s medical training, focusing more on the total patient than just the disease,” says Diane D’Amico, a staff writer for The Press of Atlantic City. Similarly Jettie Deden-Castillo, an obstetrics/gynecology nurse practitioner and contributor to the San Diego Union-Tribune, relates: “An NP can function much like a primary-care physician, but with the heart of a nurse.”

The need for highly trained physicians will not diminish with further implementation of nurse practitioners.  If anything, their workloads should be lightened by the additional coverage provided by nurse practitioners, as many serious health concerns can be avoided if patients receive necessary preventive care and education. “In 1979, the vision was for nurse practitioners to manage the care of routine, healthy patients and free up physicians to take more complicated cases,” Deden-Castillo remarks. This teamed approach may be the best method we have for facing the country’s growing healthcare needs.


  1. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/communities/absecon_galloway_port-republic/nurse-practitioners-play-integral-part-in-modern-medicine/article_aba779ec-6b19-11e3-9251-001a4bcf887a.html
  2. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Dec/25/nurse-practitioners-md-shortage/

CRNA’s Present Possible Solution to Demand for Anesthesia

By Sterling Medical Staff:

As the demand for healthcare grows quicker than the supply, one of the most daunting setbacks lies in the lack of qualified anesthesiologists.  A study conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) found that “a nationwide shortage of anesthesiologists is beginning to have a profound effect in larger hospitals, delaying elective procedures, and in extreme cases, closing down surgical suites.”1 However, findings of a recent study suggest CRNAs may provide the greatest hope in meeting anesthesia needs in the future. Read more

Radiology Technique Developed by Ohio Physician Used to Treat Soldiers

By Sterling Medical Staff:

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a large increase in shrapnel injuries among our soldiers overseas.  However, the military is working to combat this trend by training its physicians in a breakthrough surgical technique created by an Ohio radiologist. Read more

Speech Language Pathologists Healing Through Horses

By Sterling Medical Staff

When people think of speech language pathology, they typically envision a sterile office environment where patients recite drill-like speech patterns. However, the increasing prevalence of a technique known as hippotherapy ought to change some conceptions of what speech language pathology entails. Read more

Dean of UC College of Pharmacy Optimistic About Graduates’ Job Prospects

By Sterling Medical Staff

Despite the less-than-certain job prospects facing today’s college graduates, the new Dean of University of Cincinnati’s College of Pharmacy is confident his students will find jobs almost immediately out the door.  When asked in a recent interview how many upcoming College of Pharmacy graduates can expect to land jobs, Neil MacKinnon quickly responded: “Easy question, 100 percent.”* Read more

Psychologist Uses Comics to Treat Patients

By Sterling Medical Staff

As comic books and graphic novels become increasingly popular source material for major motion pictures, they are also providing inspiration in a more unlikely realm: psychology.  Chicago Psychologist Dr. Patrick O’Connor, PsyD, who specializes in treating teens and young adults, has pioneered an effort to use comic books for therapy. Read more


By Sterling Medical Staff

The future looks bright for those in the practice of optometry, and perhaps even more so for those studying to become optometrists.  According to top sources, optometry as a profession is growing much faster than most fields on the job market, even amongst the other steadily growing groups in the medical field. Read more

Demand for Physical Therapists Remains High Despite Threatened Medicare Cuts

By Sterling Medical Staff

Demand for Physical Therapists remains high across the US, despite calls in Congress for drastic cuts to Medicare.  Graduates from accredited Physical Therapy degree programs have their pick of locations whether applying for their first job, or changing positions. Read more

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