Ace the ICD-10 and Bring your A Game

I’ve come across varied reactions from people in the health care industry whenever someone brings up the topic of ICD-10, for whatever reasons! Some are cool, without a worry about this new set of codes which will eventually roll out in October 2014, and some look apprehensive, wondering whether they’ll be able to cope up with it, knowing that it’s vastly different from ICD-9. So this write-up is for all who want to ace the ICD-10 and become a champ!

An intro to ICD-10

But before we dive right into it, here’s a brief intro about how ICD-10 is different from ICD-9. ICD-9 has 14000 diagnoses codes and 4000 procedural codes, whereas ICD-10 has 68,000 diagnoses codes and 72,000 procedural codes! The information conveyed is also in much more detail, as ICD-10 codes are 7 characters in length, as compared to ICD-9’s 5-character length. The additional characters make the new set of codes much more specific and lateral. This dramatic increase reflects the changes that medical science has gone through in the last couple of decades, with new diseases and conditions being discovered, which aren’t a part of ICD-9. The switch to ICD-10, though complex, is packed with numerous advantages for the healthcare industry, such as:

  • Better patient care: The granularity and increased level of detail in ICD-10 will allow medical staff to better assess the quality and efficacy of patient care which can only lead to improvement in patient care.
  • Increased accuracy reduces errors: Greater specificity translates into higher accuracy and fewer incorrect claims. This means fewer claim denials and faster and improved payment for everyone involved.
  • Room for new procedures: ICD-10 has been developed in mind keeping the advances medicine is likely to make in the upcoming decades. Thus ICD-10 has the ability to expand and include new codes and procedures, a feature which is lacking in ICD-9.

So, to make the migration to ICD-10…

Get started now!

Yes, and the sooner the better! Why? Because come October of next year, ICD-9 will be rendered obsolete, and every medical center in the country will have to switch to ICD-10. Now imagine what you would do if you aren’t prepared to handle the humongous set of codes? Nothing much really! And it isn’t just the medical coding community that’ll feel the heat, but everyone from the front office or reception staff, the doctors, the nurses at the healthcare facility to the electronic health record vendors and insurance companies need to be prepared for ICD-10.

Preparing for ICD-10

The staggering number of new codes is reason enough to start planning and preparing for the ICD-10 transition. As a medical biller and coder, you’ll need to acquire in-depth clinical knowledge about medical terminology and anatomy to understand and apply the revised set of codes. Billing and coding professionals also need to familiarize with new policies and procedures that weren’t previously a part of ICD-9. Training, through online courses, will facilitate this transition for you. Several institutes, such as CareerStep, offer online courses in ICD-10 CM and ICD-10 PCS code training, and as they’re online, they won’t interfere with work schedules or hamper productivity.

But what if you’re a front desk administrator? You need to make sure privacy policies are updated and have patients sign the new policy forms and ensure that the system upgrades don’t affect patient encounters. And as the manager, you need to look at the larger picture. Along with the revision of policies and procedures, you have to look into and update vendor contracts, upgrade the system and software to accommodate the revised codes, devise and implement a training plan for all those directly and indirectly involved with ICD-10, and biggest of all, come up with a plan to make the transition to ICD-10 as simple and effective for your peers and staff, such that it doesn’t impede efficiency due to training sessions and the hiccups you’ll face during implementation.

So, what are you waiting for? Before you know it, October will be just around the corner! Don’t wait till the last moment when everyone is in a mad scramble to jump onto the ICD-10 bandwagon; start preparing now and be the ICD-10 champion!


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