An important change to the way you code for reimbursement is coming. take steps now to avoid a traumatic transition.
There’s no need to panic about coming changes to patient coding protocols, but be sure you have a plan in place to help you through the changeover. Because coding is at the heart of reimbursement, accuracy will be more important than ever before.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a case of a new bureaucracy being imposed on you for mysterious reasons. Rather, the U.S. has been lagging behind the rest of the world and today we’re the last country still employing the ninth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD9). It’s the official list for the coding of diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases
Despite annual updates, ICD9 has fallen further behind the times and is now showing its age. Revisions are unable to keep pace with the need for more specific codes that reflect changes in technology and advancements in medical science.
You may have noticed that ICD9 codes are either vague or unable to adequately describe certain nonacute conditions, especially in the areas of physical therapy, home care, and nontraditional care settings. Because of its numbering scheme, some ICD9 codes are effectively “full,” rending more precision impossible.
As a result, either previous codes get combined, or a new section is found under a different category. The result is a constantly shifting landscape that is problematic and confusing for coders who increasingly have to memorize exceptions and workarounds.
Given these realities, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed ICD10 to address the aforementioned shortcomings of ICD9. The new coding scheme was purposefully designed to be easy to modify and grow with changes in the healthcare arena. It was first implemented in Australia in 1998, and Canada followed suit in 2000. Other countries rapidly adopted the standard over the next decade.
ICD10CM (for diagnosis coding) is maintained by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for use in the U.S. It is based on ICD10 as developed by WHO. The ICD10PCS (for procedure coding) is maintained by CMS.1 (Note: ICD10PCS only applies to inpatient settings and won’t apply to most chiropractors.)
Missing the target
Every country that adhered to ICD9 has by now switched to ICD10, leaving the U.S. in the lagging position of being the last to adopt the new system. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicated that “all HIPAAcovered entities” were to be in compliance with EDI Vers. 5010 (electronic healthcare record standard — a prerequisite to ICD10) by Jan. 1, 2012.
As often happens with major rule changes, deadlines get pushed back. So it was not surprising that in February 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced their intent to delay the adoption of ICD10 beyond the previously established Oct. 1, 2013 deadline.2 The new compliance deadline suggested by HHS is Oct. 1, 2014.
Reasons for the postponement include lobbying efforts on the part of the medical community, and HHS and CMS are still wrestling with computer upgrades.
While other countries are almost all dealing with a single-payer system, switching in the U.S. will be more difficult as there are hundreds if not thousands of payers that all have to coordinate for a successful transition.
Even though a new target date for ICD10 implementation has not been set, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the general outlines of the new system so you understand the basic process you’ll be following to convert to the new standard.
Will ICD10 apply to me?
It almost certainly will. It will apply to diagnosis and procedure coding for everyone covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), not just those who submit to CMS. If you are covered by HIPAA and transmit electronic claims, you must also switch to Vers. 5010. CPT coding for outpatient procedures will not be affected.3
The shape of things to come
As a chiropractor, you won’t need most of the 155,000 expanded codes in the new system. After all, you don’t need many of the current 16,000 codes available in ICD9 now.
That’s the good news. The catch is that there won’t be a straight codeforcode substitution in every case. Also, HIPAA privacy policies signed by all patients will need to be revised and patients will have to sign all new forms. Your office manager will be affected by any policy or procedure tied to diagnosis codes. Your PQRS or disease management protocols will be affected
What’s more, your insurance billing and coding staff will need more education and knowledge about anatomy and medical terminology. And you as a chiropractor will have a larger documentation responsibility. You’ll find ICD10 to be more rich and precise for coding, and if you master the system you’ll likely improve your claims accuracy. The system will enable better quality monitoring and statistical analysis. If you code and practice well, you’ll be rewarded in a number of ways — eventually. Expect the first few years following implementation of ICD10 to be turbulent and some time will be needed to collect data.
Some elements of the new scheme are the same and the function of coding isn’t changing. ICD10 allows greater tracking of services, so accuracy will be essential. There will be significant changes to the way you document and file. Keeping a positive attitude will make a successful transition easier.
How hard will it be?
The American Hospital Association and the American Health Information Management Association conducted a field test for ICD10CM in the summer of 2003. Based on comments and feedback from participants, ICD10 was adjusted to reflect the realities of applying it in practice.
According to the feedback, the clinical descriptions of ICD10CM codes were judged superior to those of ICD9CM by about 72 percent of the participants. Only about 10 percent said they weren’t sure if the system was an improvement or not.
Asked how many hours of ICD10CM training they thought they would need prior to implementation:
60 percent of participants said they would need 16 hours or less. About 24 percent felt they would need between 17 and 24
hours of training.
The game plan
There won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution available for making the transition, since each practice is unique. The difficulty
may in part depend on the kind of patients you see and conditions you treat.
You’ll want to develop a transition strategy that includes:an assessment of the impact on your practice a detailed timeline a budget
Before the next announced date of implementation, it would be prudent for you to check with your billing service and
practice management software vendor. What are their plans for compliance? If you handle your own billing and IT, you’ll
have to involve your entire team in transitioning to Vers. 5010 and ICD10.
This is required by June 30, 2012. The following steps should be considered a suggestion, and you’ll likely modify it in ways to better suit your individual circumstances. The main point is to be organized and approach things in a systematic way.
Establish HIPAA 5010 compliance
The Vers. 5010 transaction sets are text files formatted to transmit claim information for evaluation. In implementing
transaction set 5010, you’ll test transactions with vendors, clearinghouses, HMOs, and similar. Ensure that you can send
and receive 5010 files as preparation for ICD10.
The prior HIPAA Vers. 4010 transaction sets cannot transmit in the ICD10CM alphanumeric coding scheme. CMS has educational materials on its website to help you transition. Visit CMS.gov, select “regulations and guidance,” then “HIPAA administrative simplification.” Select “versions 5010 & D.0.”
Learn the ICD10CM codes
Whereas ICD9 employs three to five-digit codes, ICD10 codes use three to seven digits. You may be worried because where ICD9CM had about 14,000 diagnosis codes, ICD10CM has almost five times as many (68,000).
The larger number of codes allows for more detailed diagnoses and specification of laterality. For example: M21.271 would be the appropriate code for “flexion deformity, right ankle and toes.” M21 indicates “other joint disorders,” 2 indicates “flexion deformity,”7 indicates “ankle or toes,” and 1 indicates the right side of the body. The seventh and final position of an ICD10
code is a qualifier, and if this example was for an initial encounter, you would add “A” to it, giving the final seven-digit
Determine the impact
You can be sure that your practice will not be working with all 68,000 codes. Chances are you’ll be focused on only a few sections.
For example: Section E00 to E90 applies to endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases; section G00 to G99 applies to diseases of the nervous system; and section M00 to M99 applies to diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue. You may work with other sections but for most DCs, these sections will be most frequently applied.
Once you are familiar with looking up ICD10 codes in tables, determine which ICD9 codes are the most common in your practice. This will help you determine where you need to focus your efforts in learning the codes you’ll be working with the most.
A great tool has been developed for you to use at this stage: The General Equivalence Mappings (GEMs). These are dual lists of codes that try to crosswalk the ICD9 versions to their ICD10 counterparts. They were developed jointly by CMS and CDC to help you make the transition.
When you crosswalk your codes to the new versions, you’ll see the changes in coding structure, documentation requirements, and ascertain where you need training the most.
GEMs are tools, not necessarily a onetoone crosswalk.
A diagnosis or procedure code in ICD9 may not have an exact correspondent in ICD10.
Think of GEMs as being two-way dictionaries — you’ll need to work back and forth to find the connections you need.
Design your transition plan
It is highly recommended that you appoint a “team leader” to coordinate and organize your transition plan among your staff and external partners affected.6 This may be you, your senior coding expert on staff, or someone else you deem best suited.
When the team leader has located the ICD10 codes that will be used the most in your billing and documentation and has a sense of the scale of the effort needed for transition, he or she should create a plan to guide the process.
The team leader should post benchmarks and assign timelines for implementing them. The action plan should have deadlines, and name the key individuals responsible for meeting those targets. Add some extra time in the schedule to allow for unforeseen challenges.
Also, establish a budget. Your expenses may include hardware and software upgrades in addition to staff training. You should anticipate some financial turbulence in the short term following the transition, and the reports from field testers suggest that the increased effort and time needed to comply with ICD10 may reduce your weekly patient average. In fact, some experts are recommending practices set aside up to six months of cushion in case of reimbursement issues.
Adhere to your timeline
You received a break when the government deadline of Oct. 1, 2013 was postponed. This allows you to focus on HIPAA 5010. Most software vendors have ICD10 on their radar and are either revising their electronic health records (EHR) and practice management systems to be compliant, or have plans to do so.
If you are still in the market for an EHR system, make sure your chosen product has crosswalk capabilities (matching ICD9
codes to ICD10 versions) as well as the ability to use ICD10 codes natively. If you are going with certified EHR qualified for CMS incentive payments, start establishing meaningful use.
It isn’t too early to assign a team leader (if you are delegating that task), and sketch out a blueprint for your transition plan. Any preparations you make now will reduce your burden of compliance later. You can consider holding off on ICD10
coding training for the present. The American Association of Professional Coders says that training taken too soon may need to be repeated.
Wait for the announced deadline of Oct. 1, 2014, to be confirmed and then plan training based on that date.
Perform due diligence and establish your priorities. Take preparatory steps now to sketch out the shape of your transition plan and with a committed team working with you, your journey to ICD10 will be a successful one.
Daniel Sosnoski is the editorinchief of Chiropractic Economics. He can be reached at 9045671539,
firstname.lastname@example.org, or through ChiroEco.com.
1CMS Fact Sheet. HHS Modifies HIPAA Code Sets (ICD10) and Electronic Transactions Standards. Epub
available at: www.cms.hhs.gov/apps/media/press/factsheet.asp?
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS delay of ICD10 implementation. www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/02/20120216a.html
3 Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS ICD10 Introduction Fact Sheet. www.cms.gov/ICD10/Downloads/ICD10IntroFactSheet20100409.pdf (accessed
4American Health Information Management Association. ICD10CM
Field Testing Project Summary Report. www.ahima.org/downloads/pdfs/resources/FinalStudy.pdf
5Centers for Disease Control. ICD10CM
Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting 2012. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/icd10/10cmguidelines2012.pdf
6Maguire N. How to Survive the ICD10CM/
5010 Transition. 2012 Webinar; www.kareo.com.
ICD10 timeline (extended)
Healthcare industry moves to coded data 1979
World Health Organization (WHO) adopts ICD9 and U.S. adopts ICD9CM 1983