ICD-10 is coming soon and will replace the current ICD-9 terminology. Nitin Chhoda clarifies the changes that are coming in the world of medical coding and how to deal with the upcoming transition to ICD-10.
As with any significant change in procedure, there is a portion of the medical billing and medical coding community that is in panic.
There are also many people who unaware of the extent of impact that the ICD-10 codes will have on them.
To clarify some of the commonly misunderstood aspects of this change, below are the facts about medical coding changes due to ICD-10 implementation codes.
Compliance and Flexibility
The compliance date for switching to ICD-10 codes is October 1, 2014. There have been rumors circulating that that date is somewhat flexible or that extensions will be granted either to individual practices or to everyone.
The compliance date is set and will not be changed. All health care providers must use ICD-10 codes by Oct 1, 2014.
Additionally, many people believe that compliance with ICD-10 codes requirements is only necessary if you are using electronic medical records and an EMR system. This is also an incorrect assumption. No matter whether you use electronic medical records or you are still doing all of your filing on paper, the ICD-10 codes will be required for all medical practices.
Too Many Numbers
Changing from a code system of about 13,600 codes in the ICD-9 to the ICD-10 codes which number over 144,000 sounds daunting. The exponential rise sounds overwhelming, and it should come as no surprise that medical coding professionals are worried that it will be too complex to be practical. There are also serious (and legitimate) concerns about the increase in documentation time, claiming this level of detail is unnecessary.
ICD-10 codes are structured to be more logical to use and the codes are more clinically accurate than the ICD-9 codes. Medical coding should be easier, not harder.
The structure itself is improved so that you will be searching through categories which contain more specific codes than the previous version. Of course, every change requires some learning and adjusting. But once medical coders settle into the new system, they may find they like it better than the previous system.
Introduction of Unnecessary Tests
One concern voiced by clinicians is that with a more complex and detailed set of ICD-10 codes, medically unnecessary tests will need to be taken with patients so that a diagnosis can be made and the correct code can be assigned.
Fortunately, this is not the case. Nothing about the ICD-10 codes should dictate what medical tests and procedures are prescribed for your patients. The ICD-10 codes are intended for documentation of what is found by the clinician.
If a diagnosis hasn’t been made, the code used will be dictated by the symptoms. The ICD-10 codes are more flexible in this way than the ICD-9 codes, and they still contain the non-specific codes that can be used when you cannot make a diagnosis.
Many medical professionals are nervous about the change to ICD-10 codes. Before you worry about what this change will mean for you and your practice, remember that the ICD-10 codes were designed by and for clinicians like yourself.