The ICD-10 compliance deadline is less than a year and a half away. The deadline will be upon us before we know it, but many practices are behind in their ICD-10 transition plans. However, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said that the government has no plans to push the deadline back again to accommodate those who aren’t ready.
This basically means that if your practice hasn’t started preparing, you should start preparing now. As in, today.
The first step of preparing for ICD-10 is familiarizing yourself with the ways it differs from the ICD-9 code sets.
- ICD-10 has approximately 87,000 codes. ICD-9, on the other hand, only has about 13,000 codes. Staff must be familiar with the new codes months before ICD-10 is live if a practice is to have any hope of a seamless transition.
- ICD-10 codes are 7 characters (with both numbers and letters). ICD-9 codes are only 3–4 digits, all numbers.
- Greater detail. The ICD-10 codes are longer for a reason: to describe diagnoses more accurately. Each character represents a specific category, like the body system, root operation, and approach. Rather than memorizing each code individually, focus on “reading” the codes. If you know what each character stands for, understanding the new codes will be much easier.
- More flexibility. Because ICD-10 codes are more detailed and complex, they allow for more flexibility in defining specific diagnoses. There is a code for virtually every diagnosis, which is a much safer way to practice medicine.
- Reflects usage of modern technology. ICD-9 codes have been used since 1979. The technology standards when ICD-9 was first published were worlds away from what they are today. ICD-10 is much more relevant to today’s technological advancements.
ICD-10 isn’t all about the software; it affects the people on multiple levels as well. In addition to making sure your health IT vendors will be ready for ICD-10 well before the deadline, dedicate time now to learn the new coding system inside and out. Your staff will thank you later.