According to the World Health Organization, the change to the new ICD-10 system will make it easier for physicians to identify known diseases, and classify symptoms and procedures. However, many physicians and health practitioners aren’t sure if the benefits of the new system will outweigh all the trouble it will take to implement. But one thing is for certain: it won’t be an easy change, and it’s a requirement.
The new classification system includes more than 68,000 diagnostic codes, dwarfing the 13,000 included in ICD-9. It also contains twice as many coding categories. A smooth transition to ICD-10 isn’t impossible, but providers need to take very calculated steps to prepare for the change, scheduled for Oct. 1, 2015.
Update Your Software and Documents
In anticipation of the new ICD-10 rollout, it’s important to update all the necessary software that will be affected by the new coding system. Medical billing, EMR, and claims processing systems will all be affected by the change in code, so be sure that you don’t need to update these manually. Search for the latest downloads for all the software your office is using to make sure they’re compatible with ICD-10. You can also use robotic process automation to update the codes when necessary, rather than doing it manually.
It’s also important to make sure all the forms your office uses on a regular basis reflect the new changes in the coding system. Every form you use, from patient intake forms to payment paperwork, will be affected by the change, so updating them appropriately is essential. These are things your office can be doing now to ensure its prepared when the change takes place. Keep in mind that any paperwork errors due to the new ICD-10 could be extremely complicated to remedy after they’re already filed.
Educate Your Staff
One of the most important ways you can ensure a smooth transition to ICD-10 is by making sure your staff is working together as a team. The point of the system update is to allow for enhanced patient care, but in order for this to happen, your staff needs to minimize human error. Set aside some time for you and your employees to practice the new coding system, and attend some seminars on best practices for its implementation.
Another helpful way to prepare for the switch is to develop a cheat sheet of the most common codes from ICD-9, and identify what those are in the ICD-10 system. For the first few weeks after the transition, it’s OK to allow your staff to carry such a sheet around with them. The goal is to eventually memorize all the necessary changes needed to increase efficiency and patient care, but at the beginning, cheating a little will help you and your staff feel more comfortable.
Give Your Office Some Time
Another great way to ensure a smooth switch to ICD-10 is to allow your office a little time to prepare for the changes, and adapt to them after Oct. 1. It might not be a bad idea to keep a light schedule the week prior to the change, and the week following the change. Doing so will help prevent costly mistakes due to stress or common clerical errors.
The change in October to the new ICD-10 system won’t be an easy one, but it’s long overdue. It will allow physicians to streamline the intake process, as well as make quicker, more accurate diagnoses. The tips above are by no means exhaustive, but they’re a great start to help your office make a smooth transition. To learn more about the switch to ICD-10, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ website.