Sweeping Changes to ICD-10 in October 2018

It’s here. The largest and most comprehensive update to ICD-10-CM was officially mandated on October 1st.

When ICD-10 was first announced to replace ICD-9, the expansive nature of the changes made a lot of providers nervous about its implementation. The additions came concurrently with other changes and regulations that were sweeping through the medical industry.

The great deal of hesitation leading up to ICD-10 delayed the implementation multiple times. However, once practices did implement and use the new coding, much of the worry proved to be unfounded. Here’s what you should know about the changes, and how they’ll affect you.

What Changes Will Your Practice See in the New ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCM Updates?

You’ll notice 279 additions to the previous version of ICD-10. Along with the completely new additions, 143 of the codes have been edited or changed. You’ll also notice more than 50 deletions. This is the largest revision to the coding that practices have seen since ICD-10 was implemented.

If you’re using an EHR system, contact your vendor to determine how the software is keeping up with the changes. In most cases, your vendor will have updated the software to account for coding changes prior to the mandate.

If you haven’t yet studied the upgrades released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the new additions and changes. You can also search through your practice EHR to verify how to reach the right ICD codes in given circumstances, and to make sure that you’re utilizing the code correctly to head off any issues with claims denials.

How Will This Update Impact You Long Term?

One of the best features to the new ICD-10 changes is the ability to classify and document with more specific options. The improvement here was geared around the idea of being able to bring as much clarity to charting as possible.

In areas where previous coding options might have been more generic, the new additions allow physicians to diagnose and document symptoms more accurately. This new ability creates a full picture within patient charting, closing information loops in billing and payment, as well as overall medical record keeping.

Key Tips as Your Practice Adapts to the ICD-10 Changes

While innovation is often a hallmark of good medicine, many physicians and practices are hesitant to adopt any technological changes in the office. For a smooth implementation of the latest ICD-10 additions, the key is to understand the motive of the upgrade. When ICD-10 was implemented, a great amount of resistance stemmed from a lack of understanding about how these coding changes could help practices and insurance companies streamline both the treatment and payment processes.

To facilitate an easier implementation:

  • Make sure key personnel take time to familiarize themselves with all relevant changes. This doesn’t need to take a long time, but it’s easier to maintain the flow during business hours with a measure of advanced preparation.
  • Make sure staff understand the benefits of the new coding additions. Often, staff are more enthusiastic about new processes when they can easily understand how the changes benefit them. In this case, the new coding changes promise a fuller picture of the patient for better overall care and wellness.
  • Discuss any questions or concerns with your EHR vendor. Your vendor should be able to answer questions you may have, keeping your practice up to speed and making sure there’s no lag time in filing claims or claim approvals.
  • Set a schedule to benchmark performance and assess implementation. It’s important to assess the implementation process to head off any problems that may arise and to improve training initiatives if needed.

With these latest changes, it may take time to adjust protocols within the practice. However, the long-term benefits in clarity promise to be well worth the adjustment period.