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Practice Using Diagnosis Codes Before the October 1st ICD-10 Implementation Date

For health care organizations that have not begun to train staff on usage of the new ICD-10 diagnosis codes necessary for medical billing, time is running out! The Department of Health and Human Services has set October 1, 2015, as the date the ICD-10 coding system will replace the ICD-9 set of diagnosis codes.

It will be almost impossible to develop and conduct training for leadership, managers, field staff and in house coders on the numerous ICD-10 changes in the four months remaining before the switch over. Your best alternatives to relieve the deadline pressure is to engage the services of a reputable consulting firm to train your staff on how to use the new diagnosis codes and documentation requirements or to choose a coding outsource organization who has the diagnosis code expertise and knowledge needed to ensure maximum reimbursement.

diagnosis codes

Practice with ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes 

Practice will be required for all coders as they prepare to use the ICD-10 coding system, which is comprised of about 68,000 codes, as opposed to the 13,000 codes currently used in the International Classification of Diseases, version 9. These additional diagnosis codes are intended to make the billing process clearer and more specific, and to do so, the number of characters in each diagnosis code has been expanded to a maximum of seven.

It isn’t just the number of codes in ICD-10 that will require attention and practice by the medical coders, but also the mapping of the codes will change. There is rarely a 1-for-1 substitution between a ICD-9 and ICD-10 diagnosis code because the new code is meant to convey different and more information in its character set.

The character set in ICD-10 will make use of alphanumeric characters in all positions, not just the first position as in ICD-9, and the overall code is meant to be a combination of symptoms and diagnoses, thus requiring fewer actual codes to describe a condition completely. The bottom line is that the terminology now is modernized, made uniform throughout the entire system and will require more accurate and compete documentation when services are provided.

Outsourcing Your Diagnosis Codes 

As stated above, many health care organizations are finding it difficult to make the transition from an ICD-9 to ICD-10 because of the sheer size of the transition, and the time needed to learn and practice the differences. Consider staff training to prepare for the fast approaching deadline, provided by health care consulting firms with specialists on staff who are well-versed in the changes between the two coding systems.

Alternatively, outsourcing your diagnosis codes and billing process might be an option for your organization. Outsourcing could be a temporary solution to achieve compliance and allow your in house coding staff the needed time to practice before the October deadline. As a permanent solution, outsourcing to a experienced, reputable firm will free staff to do what they do best– providing expert care to your clients.

Today it seems like a huge under taking for health care organizations to learn and make use of the new ICD-10 coding system, but in truth this change is necessary. The practice of medicine has changed significantly since the ICD-9 diagnosis codes were implemented to describe a condition, and the new codes not only do a better job of capturing the relevant information, but has a built-in flexibility for future additions when they become necessary.

Category: ICD Coding

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