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ICD-10: Getting Your Practice Prepared

By: Nextech | February 14th, 2014

ICD-10: Getting Your Practice Prepared Blog Feature

Healthcare professionals are bracing for a big change in 2014. Beginning October 1, providers across the nation will make the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 diagnostic code sets, a move that hasn’t been made since 1979. With no grace period allotted by the federal government, physicians are charged with coming up with a plan of attack for implementing ICD-10 and getting their staff fully functional by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Integrating ICD-10 into daily practice operations will need to start with a complete understanding of the major differences between ICD-9 and ICD-10. The most obvious change buzzing throughout the industry is the vast difference between the number of codes provided by ICD-10. Under the new system, codes will increase from 18,000 to more than 140,000. Federal healthcare regulators say the upsurge of codes will allow for more specific documentation during patient visits. For example, physicians documenting a patient who broke their arm will be asked to specify whether the right or left arm was broken, a detail not provided with the basic ICD-9 code sets. Another difference providers will notice immediately: code structure. As opposed to ICD-9 codes, the ICD-10 code sets will include numbers as well as letters. The length of the code will also change. ICD-10 diagnostic codes will range from 3-7 characters while procedure codes will include 7 alpha-numeric characters. 

Next, physicians will need to go about establishing a transition team. Creating a team to manage the progress of ICD-10 integration can help ensure the office has an organized method to becoming ICD-10 compliant. Remember, as of Oct. 1, your practice could stand to take a major financial blow if not in complete compliance with ICD-10. Appoint a leader to head up the team and set a time budget for when the organization plans to meet certain criteria of ICD-10. This team will be responsible for conducting a complete analysis of the practice: how has the practice been using ICD-9 codes, what forms and equipment are directly tied to ICD-9 and what type of budget should the practice have in place for software upgrades and staff training costs.

Once your team is in place, it is time to review how ICD-10 will affect clinical documentation requirements. With the addition of the thousands of codes ICD-10 will bring, physicians will need to immediately begin evaluating their patient documentation processes. Requiring greater detail from physicians when documenting patient visits and procedures, providers who fail to fully document the patient’s ailment could face financial and regulatory consequences. To avoid a government crackdown on your office and possible denied claims, providers should examine their current coding method and see if it complies with ICD-10 requirements. Because ICD-10 builds off of ICD-9, physicians should not have to completely change their practice workflow to be in compliance. Take small steps to preparing for changes to patient documentation. Evaluate which codes are used most with ICD-9 and work towards finding the corresponding ICD-10 codes. Step by step, you will see your practice begin to meet the demands of ICD-10.

Given the time and work it takes to successfully transition your practice to being ICD-10 compliant, providers should look to begin testing their new method of documenting patient visits once they have established an ICD-10-friendly workflow. Nextech Systems is dedicated to being a trusted advisor for healthcare technology through advancing solutions that are fully compliant and certified to meet the current and future needs of its clients. Nextech is committed to ensuring clients have the latest regulatory capabilities within their software, including Nextech’s recent 2014 ONC certification for meaningful use and its strategic plan for transitioning clients to ICD-10.