There’s much to do before the mandatory transition to ICD-10 codes and little time to accomplish a mountain of tasks. Much of the ICD-10 code preparation plan enacted by clinicians will depend upon the size of their practice.

The deadline is Oct. 1, 2014 for the exclusive use of the new codes and it’s very unlikely that clinicians will receive another reprieve in the form of a nationwide delay.

ICD 10 codesWhere To Find Help

Before an implementation strategy can be created, it’s essential to know what resources are available that can provide assistance.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a primary resource and has a multitude of data for different sized practices and facilities.

EMR vendors, coding/billing software vendors, and the American Health Information Management Association can also prove helpful.

Creating A Strategic Planning Team

Few practitioners have enough time in the day to treat patients and become ICD-10 experts. Creating a project team will free clinicians to conduct the daily business of the practice and allow them to obtain essential facts upon which to make informed decisions.

Budgeting and Planning

Implementation will affect practices in a variety of ways that includes software upgrades, purchasing hardware and manuals, and obtaining staff training.

The project team should take no more than two months to provide clinicians with the needed data to develop a realistic budget and secure appropriate funding for needed changes, based upon a comprehensive audit of the clinic’s current systems.

Communication Between Staff and with Vendors is Critical

Communication is a key ingredient in ICD-10 preparation and it will be an ongoing process. Practitioners will need to inform staff about the changes, how it will affect them, and establish a training schedule that doesn’t interfere with the operation of the practice.

Communication extends to all the vendors, payers and clearinghouses with which the practice interacts. Find out when their systems will be in place and when testing can begin.

Glitches in the system can’t be avoided, making it imperative for clinicians to monitor other entities to determine their readiness, ensure software systems are compatible and perform testing.

Testing Your Level of Preparation for ICD-10

There will be multiple tests prior to the 2014 deadline. Systems will need to be tested to determine if claims can be submitted, and if documentation can be completed accurately and efficiently. Staff will need to be proficient in their understanding of the new codes and the ways it will affect them.

Documentation And Coding Principles May Need Modification

The forms and documents a practice currently uses may need significant changes or modification, or new templates may need to be created to facilitate the documentation and coding process.

Billers and coders will need in-depth training and extensive practice in the practical application of the codes to avoid claim rejections.

ICD 10 codesThey will also need sufficient time to work with any changes in the forms they use to gain proficiency.

Even with the best laid plans, practitioners should be prepared for glitches, errors and last minute changes among the entities with which they routinely communicate.

The change to ICD-10 codes represents major changes in the way clinicians document their patients’ complaints, along with the software and systems they use to do so.

Being prepared for potential problems doesn’t mean practitioners are pessimistic. It demonstrates a realistic and responsible attitude that will help practices weather the ICD-10 storm.