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A Simplified Guide To Prepare For ICD-10

October 1 2015 marks the mandatory implementation date for the tenth revision of the codes for the International Classification of Diseases, a diagnostic tool referred to as ICD-10 that is published by the World Health Organization (WHO). This revision will increase the number of diagnostic codes from around 13,000 in ICD-9 to around 68,000 in ICD-10—the most substantial revision in decades.


Although medical professionals already have enough chaos in their lives without needing to worry about a new set of diagnostic codes, its very important that you take the necessary steps to ensure that you can speak the same language as your colleagues for discussing possible treatments, insurance purposes, data analysis, and billing/payment. ICD-10 also has the advantages of being far more current and specific in its diagnostic codes: for example, ICD-9 did not have a code for Ebola.  

On Thursday, October 1st 2015 all healthcare providers and healthcare plans (including Medicare, Medicaid, and all other commercial insurance providers) will be required to use ICD-10 codes. This is a major industry change and healthcare professionals should do all they can to prepare before the implementation date. The ICD-10 codes are categorized in two parts: ICD-10-CM (diagnosis) and ICD-10-PCS (procedure). You can find a comprehensive database for reference of the new codes here.


If you haven’t yet started preparing for your transition to ICD-10, here are some basic steps you should take to ensure that implementation is as non-disruptive as possible. 

  1. Sign up for one of the dozens of ICD-prep resources offered online, and practice testing yourself and how much you know.
  2. Budget time and money for any software systems upgrades and staff training that you will undoubtedly need in order to comply with ICD-10.
  3. Master the codes that are relevant to your specialty and that you will actually use during your practice. Make a short list of the codes you need to know and focus on these.
  4. Train your staff about the new codes and how to use them. Make sure you invest as much time as necessary to train staff members in order to prevent anyone from making simple yet costly coding errors.
  5. Test the ability of yourself and your staff to create and use ICD-10 codes without disrupting the flow of business.
  6. Test the ability of your practice to submit and receive transactions that use ICD-10 codes with any external billing services and/or insurance payers.
  7. Develop a system for your practice to regularly check that your ICD-10 coding is free of any errors that might be costing you money.

The deadline for ICD-10 looms before us in the near future and physicians must accept the fact that despite the burdens and disruptions that will accompany this latest revision, this diagnostic coding upgrade has been long overdue and will ultimately make healthcare more efficient and effective in the long-term.