ICD-10: tracking a moving target

ICD-10: tracking a moving target

Around this time last year we posted about the best places to get reliable information on the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 and it’s time for an update on this hot topic. The latest is that implementation of ICD-10 will now take effect on October 1, 2014 (delayed by a full year, much to the relief of many). The new date may sound like a long way off but we all know how fast the months fly by, so it’s a good strategy to stay on top of what has up until now been a moving target and prepare your practice for what lies ahead.

ICD-10 includes about 68,000 codes whereas ICD-9 has only about 13,000. Every practice covered by HIPAA (which is essentially every practice) must make the transition to ICD-10. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), ICD-10 is different from its predecessor in that, “ICD-9 codes have a completely different structure. Currently, ICD-9 codes are mostly numeric and have 3 to 5 digits. ICD-10 codes are alphanumeric and contain 3 to 7 characters. ICD-10 is more robust and descriptive with ‘one-to-many’ matches in some instances. Like ICD-9 codes, ICD-10 codes will be updated every year.” CMS further states that the transition to ICD-10 is “vital to transforming our nation’s health care system.” For more about what CMS has to offer in the way of guidance for the transition, download this helpful FAQ from their web site.

The American Medical Association (AMA) was very vocal early on about this transition and called on Congress to put a halt to the plan, stating that the new coding system would “offer no direct benefit to patient care.” Even the powerful lobbying efforts of the AMA did not, however, stop the changeover and it appears that the October, 2014 date is firm.

So now is the time to determine what needs to be done in your practice to prepare for the transition. Education and training will be key. Decide how much you can spend to get your staff up to speed and then look for resources that are aligned with your budget. Determine who within the office needs comprehensive training and how they can bring what they learn back to the rest of the team. There are a number of organizations offering educational workshops to help coders, billing professionals and physicians prepare for the transition. Google “ICD-10 training” and you’ll get many results. Before signing up for any educational program check out the organization offering it carefully. The AAPC and the AHIMA are two reputable ones to consider. They provide training workshops and have a great deal of information on their web sites.

For your ICD-10 reading pleasure, two new informative books are available. Preparing for ICD-10-CM: Make The Transition Manageable published by the AMA and Introduction to the ICD-10 Coding System published by PMIC.