Back in 2013, many clinicians breathed a sigh of relief when the Department of Health and Human Services delayed implementation of ICD-10 codes until Oct. 1, 2014.

That deadline is almost upon us and now is the time to establish a timeline that provides sufficient time for software installation, staff training, system testing, and rectifying any difficulties that arise.

ICD-10 codesImpact Analysis

The first step is to review the ICD-10 codes to obtain an understanding of the changes, how the transition will impact the practice and affect systems already in place.

Practitioners will need to conduct a complete inventory of manual and electronic systems that will be used in conjunction with the new codes, as they will need to be upgraded.

The American Medical Association estimates this phase will take 3-6 months to complete.

Contact EMR, Billing Software and Clearing House Vendors

The installation and integration of new systems and/or upgrades takes time and it’s essential to work closely with vendors on costs, work completion dates and support should problems arise.

Look for a vendor that maintains responsibility for updates, support, tools and training to minimize costs and facilitate a speedy transition. This phase of the project should take 2-3 months.

Contact Others In The Network

Practitioners will need 2-3 months to contact billing services, clearinghouses and payers to determine when their systems will be operational and ascertain when testing between the systems can commence.

Inquire as to the necessity of a contract changes that might be required as a consequence of the transition.

Vendor Upgrades

The IT work necessary for a transition of this scope will take vendors 3-6 months and they must be ready to deliver the appropriate system upgrades in sufficient time for training and testing.

Other systems concerned with public health and quality reporting will need upgrading to comply with usage of the new codes.

Internal System Testing

Two to three months will be required to test the level of preparation of documentation, billing and coding systems to ascertain that they function as they’re supposed to.

A practice conducts many types of transactions each day and the system should be put through a thorough shake-down process for each.

Documentation Updates

Clinicians should be prepared to invest 2-3 months examining their forms for patient encounters, superbills, and other data collection documentation. Make changes where needed to ensure that all details are included. Templates may need to be modified. It is critical to have a customizable electronic medical records system that allows you to create and maintain your own clinical documentation templates.

Training Staff

Develop a training schedule for staff that ensures each member understands and has a working knowledge of the new codes, how they affect the practice, and compliance issues. It will take 2-3 months for this portion of the practice’s timeline.

External TestingICD-10 codes

Contact payers, clearinghouses and billing services to schedule and conduct testing with each entity to ensure the practice can send and receive from them.

This can be done over the course of 6-9 months, as each company completes its own updates and upgrades.

Oct. 1, 2014 – The Big Day

Implementation of ICD-10 codes goes into effect on this day. Any claims with a date of service after October 1, 2014 that don’t use the new codes will be rejected. Even if all systems are in place before Oct. 2014, the new codes can’t be used before the official implementation date.

ICD-10 codes will result in major changes in the way clinicians document their patients’ visits and submit reimbursements. Claims submitted with ICD-9 codes (with dates of service after October 1, 2014) will be rejected and practitioners won’t be paid. Clinicians who begin now can be fully ready when the changes go into effect.