One of the areas that will be most impacted by the switch to ICD-10 will be the billing department. The ability of billing and coding staff to keep up with the increased coding requirements will have a direct impact on the continued flow of revenues to practices. Staff will need sufficient training in the new codes and even then, it may be necessary to engage additional personnel to address back logs.
After the deadline, any claims that aren’t submitted using ICD-10 will automatically be denied. Coding and billing staff will need the highest level of training available. People learn by doing and whenever possible, it’s a good idea to start using dual coding.
Practitioners that have their billing done by a professional agency will need to consult with the company to ensure the firm is prepared and revenues won’t be disrupted. Part of biller/coder readiness is ensuring that they and the software used is compliant with the strict HIPAA standards governing the electronic transmission of patient data.
Billers and coders may also need a refresher course in anatomy and physiology. The increased specificity of ICD-10 will require more in-depth coding. Billers/coders will find themselves using more specific terms than they’re normally accustomed. Next to the clinician, billers/coders are the most important link in the revenue chain. They must be ready for the transition or revenues will falter.,
Some interruption in the revenue flow will be inevitable. By its very composition, the new alpha-numeric coding system requires billers/coders to switch between a numeric pad and a keyboard, which will result in a slowing of coding claims. Super bills may no longer be a feasible option, requiring billers and coders to learn new forms and formats.
There are bound to be claims that are rejected in error due to the new coding. Claims will require resubmission and coders/billers will find themselves investing a significant amount of time communicating with clearinghouses and payers to determine why claims were denied. No matter how well trained the biller/coder is, those type of instances will slow down the submission and collection management process.
Errors in documentation and rejected claims will result in many patients receiving bills they don’t deserve. While it doesn’t directly affect billers/coders, it will have an impact on practices. Clinicians will see an increase in calls from panicked patients, requiring time and a cool head to explain and sooth clients.
Clinicians must adhere to coding guidelines if billers are to submit accurate claims. Practitioners can’t code for a suspected or probable diagnosis; items that would appear in notes must now be coded; coding should be done at the highest level possible; and a focus should be on medical necessity.
Clinicians and billers/coders have always had a partnership in terms of revenues and that relationship will be even more important as ICD-10 goes into effect. The billing department should be encouraged to seek verification and understanding of any item for which they’re unsure and clinicians should make time for this.
No one can hide from ICD-10. How each team member responds to its challenges will define the ultimate success of the practice and revenue flow.
Patients can be struck by numerous objects leading to pain, disability, physical therapy, and perhaps embarrassment, if the new ICD-10 codes an accurate indicator. Some of the codes seem nonsensical or unlikely. The fact that the codes exist amply demonstrate that these incidences have occurred – and multiple times in some cases.
There’s an extensive array of items that can be thrown, tossed and dropped that will cause injury. Most will lead to a visit to the ER or the physical therapist. Clinicians will definitely want to be ready for patients who have been hit by rowdy wildlife, from dive bombing macaws (W61.12XA) to head butting cows (W55.22XA) who may object to being milked.
If Grandma gets hit by a reindeer, code it as a V06.00xA, but for individuals who get thrown from a sleigh pulled by reindeer, that’s a code V80.929A. People interacting with churlish chickens with a propensity for throwing themselves at bipeds will code as a W6a.32XA. The codes make no differentiation between rubber chickens and real chickens, but there are codes for multiple encounters.
Land animals aren’t the exclusive cause of injuries. For the luckless patients who experience injury at the fins of water-dwelling creatures, it may feel like a script for a disaster movie. Clinicians will find coding options for clients with first and subsequent encounters with outraged orcas (W56.22xA), those who have been exposed to turtles (W59.29) and not-so-playful dolphins (W56.02XA).
Some individuals are just unable to multi-task while doing even the simplest things. Distracted talking and texting has led to multiple mishaps that practitioners will be coding for and may lead to some strange encounters with payers. There’s a code for people running into a lamppost (subsequent encounter, W22.02XD) and when walking the family canine (W54.1XXA).
Mankind is adept at conceiving new ways of having fun and doing it in the most dangerous venues possible. Bungee jumping (Y93.34), parasailing (Y93.19) and even playing a percussion instrument (Y93.32) or Y93.J4 for lips stuck to an instrument, can lead to unwanted conclusions. A friendly game of ultimate Frisbee (Y93.74) is cited as the reason for pulled muscles, broken bones and even whiplash.
Even fun with imaginary and inanimate creatures can be hazardous. Individuals who sustain an injury by running through a snowman, (thereby committing snowman homicide or possibly a hit and run) will code as Y02.8xxA. For those who are confused about where to put the carrot during a snowman build and insert it in their own ear, use code T16.2xxA. On the dark side, those bitten by a vampire (superficial bite of other specified part of neck, initial encounter), that’s a code S10.87xA.
When hair causes constriction (initial encounter) clinicians will turn to code W49.01XA and E928.4 for an external hair constriction. For a non-scarring hair loss, there’s code L65.9. There’s no telling when a bad hair day will result in serious injury.
Even the very air is fraught with potential danger. For clients who discover they have an air leak, use code J93.82. Patients may be injured through falling spacecraft (V95.49XA). When clients displace their balloon, code it as a T82.523S, but for victims of a falling alligator, that’s code W5803XA.
ICD-10 codes reflect real incidents and complaints, but the ways in which they’re worded often make them fodder for fun. The primary points clinicians need to remember is that they need to code to the highest level possible and as accurately as possible – even if it results in long conversations with payers who have disbelieving minds. Perhaps they could code for a therapeutic massage.
ICD-10 implementation means changes at all levels. One of the first responsibilities for managers will be to analyze the practice environment and personnel to determine specific needs to bring the practice into compliance and readiness for implementation. The entire process will require many managers to assume duties with which they’re unfamiliar or require them to step out of their comfort zone.
Managers will take on the role of overseeing and coordinating the implementation of ICD-10 and that will include contacting vendors, payers, clearinghouses and billing professionals. Contracts will all need to be evaluated, revised, updated and receive final approval before the official implementation date. New policies for employees will need to be revised, distributed and a signed copy returned.
Budgetary concerns will occupy a large part in managers’ responsibilities. Operating funds must be set aside to account for the inevitable reimbursement delays to come. There will be numerous software and hardware updates, purchases and IT considerations. Testing is a crucial part of preparation to ensure that the practice can communicate appropriately with others in the system. It’s a process that will take time and will rely on the readiness of other entities.
The transition to ICD-10 will require training and education for all staff members and sufficient money will need to be appropriated. Implementation will affect staff members in different ways. Managers will be responsible for determining the level of education each individual requires, ensure staff participation and that they’re fluent upon completion. Managers will want to explore various instruction methods, from online options to on-site instruction. Not all staff will need the same level of training.
The workflow in practices and the billing department will experience delays. These should be expected. Staff training and system testing will require a significant amount of time, resulting in a loss of productivity prior to implementation. It may be necessary to hire extra staff in various departments to alleviate back-up and loss of productivity. Additional personnel may be required for up to six months following implementation.
Significant risk accompanies ICD-10 implementation. HIPAA compliance for securely transmitting medical information is critical. Sufficient safeguards must be in place. Part of the implementation process involves how information will be stored and manipulated by those within the practice and entities with which the practice works.
The additional documentation and coding required by ICD-10 places much more patient information at risk and security measures must be addressed.Risk management also extends to potential loss in revenues after the conversion. The best laid plans may encounter snags and delays. A contingency plan to handle any problems will be essential.
The implementation of the new coding system is a major undertaking at all levels of the practice. It will require new methods, practices and policies. Medical practice managers will be extremely busy ensuring that staff receives training, the revenue flow experiences minimal disruptions, and the practice is in compliance for the ICD-10 conversion. During the transition, managers should take care not forget to obtain the ICD-10 training they need.
The rules of coding for ICD-10 have been established in cooperation by the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). It’s a standard to which all clinicians must adhere.
Reviewing The Basics
ICD-10 encompasses 21 chapters and expanded code options that have been reorganized and expanded. Injuries are described by site first and then by type. They include laterality, greater specificity and combination codes.
ICD-10 codes are now identified with an alpha-numerical system that can include up to seven characters and the first will always be a letter. The letters I and O are not used, as they can easily be confused with the numbers 1 and 0. Letters aren’t case sensitive.
The first three identifiers represent the category, the next three describe the anatomical location and severity, and the last is an extension that identifies if it as the first or subsequent encounter, or the result of a previous injury or disease. X is used as a placeholder in some codes.
Injuries are grouped by body part rather than injuries. Clinicians will focus on documenting the current complaint of the client. Never assume that “standard” treatment has been provided or code on a suspected diagnosis. Payers just want the facts of what’s readily observable.
Practitioners will need to document variables that were not required under ICD-10. Clinicians will need to include data on all external causes that led up to the actual injury, the exact location of the injury, and the patient’s actions at the time of the injury.
Documentation will also require information about the environment in which the injury took place, and any measures the patient has taken to alleviate the problem. Additional data must be included on any complications, the results of tests and exams, and very detailed data on the treatment plan.
The conventions for ICD-10 have an alphabetic index of terms and codes that may apply. It’s broken down into four parts: Index of Diseases and Injury, Index of External Causes of Injury, Table of Neoplasms, and Table of Drugs and Chemicals. ICD-10 also has a tabular list that divides codes into different chapters that’s based on condition or body system.
ICD-10 coding conventions dictate that clinicians record the underlying or casual condition first. This should be followed by the condition displayed. Up to 12 diagnosis codes can be included for accurate representation of all conditions related to the patient’s visit.
A new coding convention for ICD-10 provides laterality in reporting. Clinicians now have designations for right, left, bilateral and unspecified. Coding can then be specified for the type of injury, disease or condition, along with an even more finely detailed description of the affected area.
Medication conventions have also been expanded. An example of this is drug under-dosing, a concept that doesn’t exist in ICD-9 but can be coded for under ICD-10. Many of the new codes reflect changes in terminology and technology. Some codes have been updated, while other terms have been eliminated or disassociated from specific conditions.
Even punctuation is addressed in the conventions. Specific guidelines have been established for the use of parentheses to designate supplementary words and terms that should be documented, but won’t change the diagnosis. Clinicians can differentiate between signs, symptoms and unspecified codes.
While ICD-10 codes are extensive and comprehensive, the good news for practitioners is that they generally won’t have to contend with the entire complement of code options, only those that affect their specialties. For instance, physical therapists and dermatologists won’t be coding for the same types of disease or injuries.
The new documentation requirements for ICD-10 have a focus on the specifics. Payers want as many in-depth details as possible for each claim so they can decide if they’ll make the reimbursement or if the financial responsibility can be shifted elsewhere. Clinical documentation is a critical element for clinician reimbursement.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) estimates that only 37 percent of current clinician documentation provides enough detail to meet the stringent reporting requirements of ICD-10. Documentation will require more detailed information on topics that include the what, when, where and why of injuries, diseases and conditions.
Typical information about the client’s height, weight and vital signs will remain, but the details of an injury and surrounding circumstances are much more specific. In the previous example of the woman who suffered shoulder pain and headaches after an accident on a cruise ship, the following information will be required under ICD-10 coding.
All external causes that led up to or contributed to the injury;
The exact location of the injury on the patient’s body;
The patient’s actions and activities at the time of the injury and after;
Injury codes require a character extender to identify the type of encounter and if the patient sought medical attention;
Data will be required to identify where the client sought medical treatment, any tests that were conducted and referrals that were made;
The patient’s location when the injury took place or when the symptoms appeared is essential and ICD-10 provides data that narrows the location to a specific room, environment or mode of public transportation, including cruise ships;
Applied specificity is required for any number of accidents and injuries to document the immediate symptoms experienced by the patient at the time of the incident, as well as ongoing symptoms, severity and frequency;
Clinicians must indicate any methods the patient has used for pain relief or to alleviate the problem, from over the counter medications to hot and cold therapies;
Documentation must identify if the pain or symptoms from the injury are chronic or acute;
Any related complications encountered;
The result of hands-on examination and any tests ordered;
A detailed account of the treatment plan, including the symptoms that will be addressed and how.
Complete and detailed documentation is essential for reimbursements and Medicare requires clinicians to maintain records on all of a patient’s health and medical history both past and present. A number of variables must be documented that were not required under ICD-9 code sets.
Clinicians will need to exercise caution to ensure each item is thoroughly documented with the corresponding code. The new documentation requirements have a focus on the immediate complaint and no suspected diagnosis must enter the equation, only what can be clearly determined from the available information.
More codes, greater specificity and increased reporting regulations, combined with coding rules and categorization changes, are all leading to significant increases in documentation time when ICD-10 is fully implemented. It’s estimated that clinicians will experience a 15 percent increase in their documentation time and that’s a conservative number.
Many ICD-10 codes are very similar except for one or two differences, while other codes are only differentiated by which side of the body the problem affects. Searching with a GEM may turn up no results or thousands. Even practitioners who have acquired ICD-10 training and use a computer assisted search tool will face challenges when locating the exact code that’s needed.
Productivity is expected to drop by up to 10 percent due to physician queries from billers/coders. The potential for denials and the need for additional management of claims will affect revenue flows. Very real problems will arise with clinician queries using keywords. The following example outlines a potential patient complaint and the results of a keyword search.
Mrs. Johnson was on vacation aboard a cruise ship and was walking in the gift shop when a vase fell on her right shoulder. She has had pain in the right shoulder since then. At the time that this injury occurred, she did not consult with a healthcare provider; she thought it would just go away on its own. After a few days, the pain seemed to get worse, and she started noticing more trouble reaching up and to the side. Also, ever since the incident, she has been suffering from chronic headaches. The patient complains of severe pain across the insertion of the supraspinatus. Traditional over the counter medications do not relieve the headache or the shoulder pain. Past medical history is unremarkable. She followed up with her primary care physician, who referred her to physical therapy. Patient indicates that no diagnostic tests (i.e – X-rays, MRI) were done so far.
The patient weighs 220 lbs. and is 5 feet 4 inches tall. Her blood pressure is 128/86, pulse rate is 72 and respiratory rate is 16. She has full strength in all muscle groups in the upper extremity with the exception of the right middle deltoids, which are 3+ and right supraspinatus, which is 2+. All deep tendon reflexes in the upper extremity are normal. Range of motion is normal in the upper extremity with the exception of right shoulder external rotation (to 25 deg), abduction (to 130 deg) and flexion (to 135 deg). All of these ranges exhibited pain at end range.
Special tests: Right shoulder (+) Neers, (+) Hawkins-Kennedy, (+) IR lag sign with pain.
Cervical range is restricted to 50% for flexion, extension and side-bend. Tenderness and hypertonicity noted at suboccipital area (right>left).
Exam findings are consistent with rotator cuff strain in the right shoulder. Pain, range of motion restrictions, and weakness in right shoulder, with chronic headaches.
Physical therapy 3 times a week for 4 weeks for treatment of right shoulder pain, with range restrictions and weakness, with symptoms consistent with rotator cuff involvement. Treatment to also address chronic headaches and neck range restrictions, with therapeutic exercises, therapeutic activities, postural exercises, patient education, joint mobilizations/soft tissue mobilizations, home exercise, and modalities as indicted.
A clinician that searches for the keywords cruise ship will find 233 results in two classification sets and a further search for falling object and right shoulder pain each has 500 references in three classification sets. A more specific search for rotator cuff returns 109 results in four classifications. Results increase with a key word search for physical therapy returning more than 500 results across seven classification sets.
Searching by specific codes will display results for multiple categories ranging from nuclear medicine and obstetrics to mental health, substance abuse and poisoning. The typical practice won’t experience many of the situations described in the new ICD-10 coding, but they must still wade through a morass of potential codes to arrive at the desired data.
Navigating the ICD-10 code set will affect every individual within the practice and clinics can’t rely on GEMs and crosswalks indefinitely. Implementation requires that all staff members receive education and clinicians obtain coding training in their specialty. It will help reduce documentation times and the instances of claim denials under the new codes and documentation rules.