4 tips to preparing for ICD-10 transition

4 tips for ICD-10 preparation

The ICD-10 coding system will enhance patient care by improving diagnoses across the health care continuum. However, the new codes have required a lot of preparation from physicians and their staff. As the implementation date is only a few months away, providers should have started their preparations to ensure that they avoid any setbacks once Oct. 1 comes. 

With so many different factors to consider, from training staff to updating electronic health records, it is essential that providers are taking advantage of the time they have to get all aspects of their practices or facilities ready for the major transition. Here are a few tips to smoothly switch from the ICD-9 codes to the ICD-10.

1. Conduct end-to-end testing
The only real way for physicians to see whether their claims will be denied once the ICD-10 codes are implemented is participating in end-to-end testing with payers. The results also show specific areas that practices may need to work on before the transition date to avoid denied claims from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Diana Adam-Podgornik, the coding compliance coordinator at Rochester Regional Health System in New York, explained to EHR Intelligence the importance of performing these tests as early as possible

"Set up a testing team with members of both IT and Revenue Cycle in a large organization or assign a point person in a smaller office, and work closely with your payers," Adam-Podgornik told the news source. "The majority are ready to accept test claims for ICD-10. Do this early, don't wait. And keep on them to find out when they will be ready if they are not currently. Testing claims with every insurer, as well as for every patient type, is a must. Additionally, any reports housed within your systems, or crystal reports containing dx or procedure codes or information culled from those codes need to be mitigated."

The CMS recently announced that it will not be denying claims as a result of small errors for the first year after the deadline. While this may serve as a relief for most health professionals, insignificant mistakes like choosing the wrong codes that are in the right group or "family" should still be on providers' radars as something to avoid nonetheless. 

2. Prioritize the top 10 codes
According to Medical Practice Insider, there are usually 10 codes that practices use the most. EHR systems can often identify these diagnoses and procedure codes. Having staff immediately become familiar with the ICD-10 versions of these codes may help to streamline processes and reduce errors in the first couple of months after implementation. Focusing on high-dollar and high-volume claims that account for the majority of a practice's revenue will keep revenue stream integrity and identify opportunities for additional reimbursement.

3. Take advantage of guidance
The Road to 10 website provided by the CMS was designed to assist physicians and providers as they attempt to prepare for the new codes. Physicians with small practices will benefit from the website, as many of the tips are catered toward small staffs. There are also training videos that provide health professionals with visuals of the tasks that should be completed before Oct. 1. 

"With easy to use tools, a new ICD-10 Ombudsman, and added flexibility in our claims audit and quality reporting process, CMS is committed to working with the physician community to work through this transition," CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said in the news release. 

The CMS recently announced that it will be releasing another guidance for the transition process to the new ICD-10 codes, including information on medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures. It explained the new Ombudsman feature that will enable physicians to communicate common errors so that the CMS can help the industry work to prevent them. Providers should take advantage of these features to make the transition process easier on themselves and their staff. The guidance also highlights the fact that the claims submitted during the first year after Oct. 1 will receive flexibility in the auditing and quality reporting process.

4. Update technology sooner rather than later
Everything from a practice's EHR system to the billing and coding tools will need to be updated. During the transition, it will be very important that providers have technology that helps them learn the new codes with the proper support from their vendors. 

"The sooner you can get the updates the better off your practice will be," Tom Sullivan, executive editor of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Media, told Medical Practice Insider. "Now is also a good time to evaluate ICD-10 smartphone and tablet apps – many are free and others low-cost. Even those with a price tag typically offer trial periods to test them out and decide whether there is one that can be useful to you."

Systems with features like mobile applications for smartphones and updated interfaces that enable providers to easily and quickly select ICD-10 codes will benefit providers most.