How should I prepare for ICD-10?

From time to time, we hear about consultants scaring the daylights out of providers with horror stories about the transition to ICD-10.  We disagree with that approach, although it’s important to have a healthy respect for any system that – from one day to the next – essentially quadruples the number of diagnosis codes and scrambles them into a completely different system of nomenclature.  The keys are understanding and preparation. 


The transition from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM requires an in-depth understanding of the new code set, how it’s designed and its specific nomenclature which departs significantly from the system in widespread use today.  We believe the important thing to do right now is to expose providers and staff to the new system so they begin to lose some of the fear.  There is a good bit of information online about ICD-10, and consultants abound to help you with the educational process.  [Shameless promotion: CCG can conduct a one-hour educational session in person, or via webinar, to take the mystery out of ICD-10]  It’s critical to begin the ICD-10 conversation early and plant the seeds for the provider habits that will facilitate a smooth transition.


Because the change in code sets is essentially two years away, too much preparation can disrupt operational processes.  For paper-based providers, a good bit of education and coaching can be done early in the process because their coding will not be impacted by the additional documentation required by ICD-10.  In a nutshell, your clinicians can ‘practice’ honing certain documentation skills and habits long before they are a requirement.  How about that for an advantage to paper charts!

However, many providers are in various stages of transitioning to electronic medical records (EMRs) that, at this time, do not support the significant changes in documentation required for ICD-10.  Consequently, their preparation will occur on a different schedule with the goal of lessening the impact to office productivity predicted by industry experts. Keep in mind that productivity snags can affect patient care, patient throughput, and provider reimbursement and profitability.

For example, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) reports that it could take as long as a year for productivity to rebound following ICD-10 implementation.  Coders in Australia and Canada reported a six-month curve for their productivity to return to pre-implementation levels.

In January 2012, CCG will launch its ICD-10 training curriculum for providers and staff.  Click here to request additional information when it is available to the public.

For information on ICD-10, see our blog post “What exactly is ICD-10”.

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