Transition to new program will have huge impact on medical coding

New medical coding techniques and standards are on the way.With the transition from the ninth to the 10th version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) coming on Oct. 1, 2014, there is about to be a major change in medical coding training.

Physicians across the country are already worried about the many problems that could arise once the transition is made official, and medical coding delays during the first few months are inevitable. But with a strong team of certified medical coders and a little hard work, the shift shouldn’t be as dramatic as many fear it could be.

Possible difficulties brought about by the change to ICD-10

Beyond delays, there are several other issues that could arise once October 2014 rolls around. Claim denials from incorrect coding are the most prominent concern, but the lack of coders with training in the new system could lead to other significant problems.

The new system will require a more in-depth level of documentation,1 putting more pressure on all medical professionals to keep detailed records of each patient they treat. For instance, it will no longer be enough to classify something as an open wound. You will now need to specify exactly what kind of wound it is, whether there is a foreign body involved and what part of the body it’s in.

There is also expected to be a drop in productivity as coders will have to dedicate more time and effort to reading each document, instead of just skimming them as many veterans of the profession often do.

Ways to deal with the transition to ICD-10

There are several ways physicians and other medical professionals can get ahead of the issues they will eventually face once the transition takes place. The first is to hire more medical coders. The expectation that that will take place is one of the reasons the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of medical records and health information technicians will increase by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020.2

Preparation will also be key to getting out ahead of any potential problems. In order to aid in that effort, Nelly Leon-Chisen, RHIA, Director of Coding and Classification at the American Hospital Association Central Office, recently published a handbook to help medical professionals ease their way into the transition.3

“With ICD-10-CM/PCS coding changes just around the corner and effective October 1, 2014, it is imperative that organizations do what they need to do now to prepare,” Leon-Chisen wrote in a press release announcing the handbook’s publication.

It’s advice that medical coders and medical coding programs everywhere will have to take to heart.

1 Worth, Tammy, PhysBizTech, “How to Make the ICD-10 Transition Manageable,” Sept. 10, 2013. http://www.physbiztech.com/best-practices/technology/how-make-icd-10-transition-manageable
‚Äč2 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians,” Aug. 7, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
3 Press release, PRWeb, “2014 Edition of the ICD-10 and ICD-10-PS Coding Handbook has Published,” Aug. 26, 2013. http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1432443