Regulatory requirements that affect the medical practice are changing rapidly.  While the primary focus may seem to be on EHR systems and meaningful use to obtain those stimulus funds, there are other mandatory system changes that need to be addressed now, starting with the conversion to ICD -10 code set.

The new code set represents an important advancement in diagnostic coding and conversion to it is required.  Limitations of ICD-9 include limited descriptive reporting and inability to adapt to advances in medical procedures and technology. The new system promises more flexibility and descriptive capacity. As a result, more accurate healthcare data reporting is expected.

Due to the significant structural differences  between the existing ICD-9 diagnostic coding system and ICD-10 coding system, the transition to ICD-10 code set is one of the critical areas of change for physicians in the near future.  Medical practices will be required to adopt the use of the ICD-10-CM code set by October 2013.

Since the new system is relatively complex, you’ll want to make sure your entire staff receives the training they need as early as possible. One potential benefit for doctors that “under code” is that more precise diagnosis and procedure codes will enable more accurate reimbursement. Additional benefits include an improved ability to measure health care services, reduce coding errors, a decreased for supporting documentation with claims, and the ability to use administrative data to evaluate medical processes and outcomes.

October 2013 may seem a long way off, but given the magnitude of this conversion it is important to address this change now in order to avoid severe work disruption and delayed or lost payments.

The first step in planning for the conversion to ICD-10 is to assess the organization’s readiness for adapting the new codes and understanding the impact of the change on your practice. Practice leaders should meet with billing system IT representatives and develop an implementation strategy, time-line and budget to accomplish the conversion. The timeline should include adequate time for testing the system and it should contain a plan for providing essential education and training for the team members. This requires aligning the financial stakeholders  to obtain a commitment for the time and resources required to understand the system needs essential to accomplish a successful transition.

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