ICD-when: Benefiting from the delay

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Unpredictability seems to be the constant variable in the saga of changes to healthcare these days. When the decision was made to postpone the ICD-10 for another year, many healthcare providers let out a sigh of relief, while others expressed disappointment because they had already spent considerable resources on preparations and training. Either way, sometime in 2015 providers and payers alike will have to be ready for the change. Industry experts suggest they use the extra time wisely.

In an open letter, American Association of Professional Coders’ CEO, Jason VandenAkker states that the association remains dedicated to helping the industry prepare for ICD-10 implementation, despite the delay. Many other consulting and training programs will continue to push preparations for the implementation of the new codes.

Undertaking preparations for the transition to ICD-10 coding has been significant and challenging for both payers and providers, but the updated coding system will provide greater transparency and more specific data that practices can use to operate more smoothly.

Over time, a number of benefits from the ICD-10 implementation will emerge: improved payment accuracy, fewer rejected claims and improved disease management. This is partly due to the sheer number of codes under ICD-10; a dramatic increase. In total, the number of codes is increasing from approximately 18,000 to 140,000 codes.

Some have said that the new delay should be used as an opportunity to improve documentation and continue to drive financial returns. Many practices have been using dual coding during preparations for ICD-10. Several vendors and consulting firms have suggested continuing to use both systems so that practices can see payments based on ICD-9 coding, but with the added ability to analyze what actual reimbursements will be under the new system, giving more long-term visibility to reimbursement impact than if ICD-10 went live this October.