How to Prepare for ICD-10 Medical Coding

The countdown to the implementation of ICD-10 medical coding is ticking away. As of October 1, 2015, all diagnosis reported or discharged as of that date will required to be coded utilizing the new coding guidelines. While some providers and other medical professionals have hoped for an extension to this deadline, that does not appear to be likely according to HHS. If you haven’t already begun, it’s time to start preparing for the changes.

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Preparation for ICD-10 Medical Coding Changes

In order to be prepared in time for the October 1st implementation date, it’s time to analyze the changes and plan for transition.

  • Changing from Paper to EHR: Physicians that haven’t switched from paper charts to electronic records may find the changes difficult. Detailed notes will be necessary since an ICD-9 diagnosis that took one code can now take four codes to be adequate. Having real-time, detailed information will enable physicians and coders to work efficiently together.
  • 3 D’s – Preparing for Patients’ Questions Related to Delays, Denials, and Diagnosis: Patients may not be aware that the ICD codes have changed or how they impact their care. However, as changes are implemented, mistakes and backlogs are likely. This can lead to delays in approvals for some treatments/tests, denials of claims, and confusion/questions related to specific diagnosis that may be different from what a patient may have seen previously.
  • Form a Unified Front: Physicians, medical coding service providers, and other professionals will need to work together to learn and make the changes as seamless as possible. Going from 15,000+/- ICD-9 codes to 155,000 ICD-10 codes is going to make patient care more specific and potentially more challenging in the beginning. Teamwork helps address challenges and prepares for implementation by bringing all groups and staff together.
  • Tips and Training: Leadership needs to begin educating staff now and continuing until (and through) October 1st. Training seminars, on-line self-learning tools, informational posters, “cheat sheets”, and timelines/newsletters can make the transition easier. It’s not too soon to start now. Don’t start later than 4-5 months before implementation.
  • Assess Medical Coding Staff Needs: Consider hiring additional temporary or permanent medical coders or outsourcing medical coding services. Working with agencies that provide trained and skilled ICD-10 coders can help during transition. You might also find some excellent long-term staff or determine outsourcing is a better option for your practice.

Plan ahead and take one step at a time for success in implementation.