Healthcare Providers Tackle ICD-10 Coding Transition

Last Updated September 24, 2018

The transition from the ICD-9 medical classification system to its new ICD-10 iteration is challenging and time-consuming: The intricacies of updating a system that has not been fully revamped in 30 years brings a host of challenges.

Though the medical and billing code transition requirement has been postponed again – the new deadline for healthcare providers to have ICD-10 in place is October 2015 – preparing now is critical to its successful implementation.

ICD-10 is an immensely expanded version of its previous self. The number of possible diagnostic codes is multiplying almost 5 times to 69,000 and the number of procedure codes is skyrocketing from about 3,000 to approximately 87,000.

These expansions in details provide for greater flexibility and detail in describing a person’s health and in how healthcare providers can bill for their services. These changes will affect everyone from the physicians and nurses providing care to the front and back office staffs in small private practices all the way up to major healthcare organizations.

A variety of experts and consultants compiled suggestions on making the transition to ICD-10 easier. These ideas include breaking out the codes they use the most. Keep a handy list of the codes most applicable to a specific practice and focus on those. They also recommend starting to dual code now, matching ICD-9 codes to ICD-10 codes and using both in notations just to become familiar.

Other popular suggestions include training sessions, installing coding software, and reaching out to the most commonly used vendors to ensure compatibility.

Most healthcare providers have worked on making this transition for a couple years. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) urged its members to “stay the course” during the extended deadline period; healthcare providers should continue preparing for the transition despite the seemed respite from the original deadline.

The deadline delay for the implementation of ICD-10 offers great opportunities for health IT leaders and health informatics specialists. People with the knowledge and experience working with coding, billing and educational training have the resources many providers are looking for. Outside of large hospital systems and educational institutions, most healthcare practices do no employ educators or IT specialists. Private physician practices, both large and small, will need expertise to help guide their transition.

Individuals can offer on-site coding classes, organize larger meetings or classes for familiarization with the new systems, or even develop e-learning formats that can be sold as a teaching plan or accessible in an interactive classroom through trade associations or even community colleges.

Preparing now, taking small steps, and testing the system before it comes online will help ease the transition when the October 2015 deadline arrives.