With ICD-10 Training, Timing Is Everything

January 17, 2015
Avery Hurt

How to manage the timing of your ICD-10 training - whether you anticipated a 2014 transition or have done nothing so far.

The surprise delay that postponed the implementation of the ICD-10 coding system until Oct. 1, 2015, gave software vendors more time to roll out their new products - in theory. But in fact, for many vendors, that extra time was spent dealing with problems created by the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use. So many practices find themselves in the familiar situation of waiting for their vendors to get their software up to speed. There is, however, a great deal you can do while you wait other than drum your fingers and worry.

Professional coding association AAPC takes an approach to training that can give you both a head start on your software's capabilities and a better fundamental understanding of the documentation.

"We like to focus on the documentation concepts rather than just focusing on the codes themselves," said Rhonda Buckholtz, AAPC's vice president of education and training. "These concepts vary according to specialty, so there are fewer of them overall for any given specialty; some specialties have more than others. This approach improves all EHR documentation, not just coding, immediately."

Even so, the timing of training can be tricky, said Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor for government affairs with the Medical Group Management Association.

"If you start training now, and you don't use the new codes, you may need to retrain before October," said Tennant. "But if you wait too long, you may have scheduling problems."

Jennifer Perry, practice administrator for Alabama-based Norwood Clinic, a large multi-specialty practice, is facing this dilemma. "The delay kind of screwed us," she said. "We had already trained our coding staff, so now we are going to have to pay for a refresher course this summer. Luckily the postponement was announced before we began physician training, but we had been talking it up, and our physicians were ready to go. The delay took the wind out of their sails."

There is a solution to the timing dilemma, though, that both Buckholtz and Tennant recommend. Practice with ICD-10, even while still using ICD-9.

"Look at an already adjudicated claim and see if you could use the information there to assign an ICD-10 code," suggested Tennant. "If not, go back to the physician and explain that the claim was great, but in the future you'll need more information."

Buckholtz agreed that this is an "effective way" to train your clinical staff. As far as coders are concerned, she suggested practicing with the new codes alongside the old system. This can only help, even before the new codes take effect. "Coders trained in ICD-10 are better ICD-9 coders already," she said.

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