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A New Year Brings a New Code Set – ICD-10 in 271 Days

A New Year Brings a New Code Set – ICD-10 in 271 Days

It’s the year of ICD-10. In a short 271 days we will be making the change from ICD-9 to ICD-10. There is a ton of great information available on making the transition in October, but in speaking with clients and colleagues, I see an impact that will take providers some time to get used to.

A very notable change of ICD-10 that I feel will have the most impact is the sheer number of codes providers will be dealing with on a daily basis.

ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes:

As we all know, we will be transitioning to ICD-10 in October (as of right now anyway), and this is a huge change for practicing providers, especially those who have been practicing for years and comfortable in their ways. Providers will be moving from a coding system containing around 13,000 diagnosis codes, to a system containing over 68,000 diagnosis codes.

If the sheer number of available codes isn’t enough to make your head spin, there are numerous other changes within the coding system.

Diagnostic Code Changes:

  • All diagnosis codes will be 3-7 characters in length.
  • All diagnosis codes will start with a letter of the alphabet.
  • The second and third characters will always be numeric.
  • The 4th – 7th characters can be alpha or numeric.

The AMA explains the ICD-10 diagnosis coding system as more flexible…

“The increased specificity of the ICD-10 codes is more flexible, which means that emerging diseases can be quickly incorporated. The higher level of detail in the codes provides the ability to more precisely code the diagnosis. As with ICD-9, ICD-10 codes are to be reported at the highest level of detail possible within the code structure. ICD-10 reflects advance s in medicine and medical technology making the code set more relevant to today’s understanding of diagnoses. ICD-10 also provides an improved ability to measure health care services and conduct public health surveillance.”

ICD-10 Procedural Codes:

If that’s not enough, procedural codes are in for even bigger changes. Whereas ICD-9 gave us approximately 3,000 procedural codes to utilize, ICD-10 boosts that number to around 87,000 codes with even more changes on the horizon.

Procedural Code Changes:

  • All procedure codes will be 7 characters in length.
  • Very specific to every detail of a procedure.
  • Has the ability to show lateral aspects.
  • Allows detailed explanation of body parts.
  • Has detailed descriptions of methodology and approach for procedures.
  • Defines with detail regarding body part, approach, any device used, and qualifying information.

I can’t say it better than the AMA when they explained the procedure code system…

“It provides greater detail to describe complex medical procedures and describes precisely what was done to the patient. There is plenty of space to add new procedures. It uses current medical terminology. The codes follow a logical structure. There is standardized terminology, which means that each term has the exact same meaning across the code set. The codes also have a multi-axial structure, meaning that each code character has the same meaning within procedure sections and across the code set where possible.”

While, in my personal opinion, ICD-10 is a great and much needed system on so many levels, It’s not going to be an easy 2014 as we transition to the new, complex ICD-10. The complexity underscores the need to be adequately trained on ICD-10 in order to fully understand reporting changes that will come with the new code sets.

My advice to providers is to seek as much information and professional assistance as possible in the next 271 days to make the switch as easy and comfortable as possible.

Additional Resources: OMG’s ICD-10 Preparedness and Online Resource List

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