Three ICD-10 Work Flow Changes to Consider

June 9, 2015

Make the transition to the ICD-10 coding system a lot smoother with just a few tweaks to your practice work flow.

The first few months on the ICD-10 coding system are expected to cost both money and time. We all know how to prepare for the possible financial hit - be in as good financial shape as possible going in and have some money saved to cover any shortfalls. That might be a challenge, but at least you know what you need to do.

But you can't just put extra time in a savings account to tide you over when things get messy in October. Or can you? Actually, with a little creative scheduling and work flow management, you might be able to do just that.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

• During the first few months of ICD-10, your coders and the people in the business office are going to have all that they can handle getting used to the new coding system and dealing with the inevitable snafus. So, as best you can, arrange for them to have as little as possible to deal with that doesn't involve making the ICD-10 transition run smoothly. "Verify insurance and benefits eligibility at the scheduling call when at all possible, and also let the front office work the exceptions," recommended Elizabeth Woodcock, president of Woodcock and Associates practice management consulting firm. "If you aren't already doing this in the front office, this is a good time to start. Let the business office focus on billing and getting paid."

• Woodcock also recommended that you consider staffing up in preparation for the transition to ICD-10. "You may be able to delay a retirement or ask a previous employee to do some contract work for the few months surrounding ICD-10. And be prepared for some overtime," she said. Christine Lee, manager of provider practice services with Care Communications, a health information management consulting firm, suggested trying to shift to other employees anything billing staff normally does that doesn't relate directly to ICD-10. "In smaller organizations, people wear a lot of hats, so it might be feasible to switch responsibilities around a little bit. You might even consider hiring temporary outside help," she said. "It might mean spending more money, but the revenue saved by getting claims out faster and with fewer errors might make up for that."

• You might also be able to increase your coding efficiency (and success rate) by having what Lee calls "a designated clean up crew" to deal with lingering ICD-9 claims -depending on your turnaround time, this could take a couple of months. Not only would this be a more efficient way to structure the work flow, it could reduce errors as well. Lee recommended that even if you don't go as far as to have a team just for ICD-9 claims, you organize things so that coders don't have to switch codes sets more than once a day.

The transition to the ICD-10 coding system is "kind of like Y2K," joked Woodcock. And if you do a good job organizing your work flow before ICD-10 becomes a reality, it might be just as anticlimactic.