An update to our code system may seem dry and annoying, but it is essential for accuracy and communication for each person’s—and the world’s—health. For example, the United States’ current health coding system does not include Ebola or even various strands of influenza. In fact, when Ebola hit, doctors and researchers were forced to classify it as “other specified diseases due to virus” or “hemorrhagic fever not elsewhere classified,” leading to miscommunication that could have had deadly consequences. As a medical coder and biller, you are at the center of that important chain of communication. Are you prepared?
Whether you are looking into a coding career or already in the workforce, here’s a breakdown of the main differences between the ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding systems and why there is no time to lose.
What is ICD-9?
ICD stands for International Classification of Diseases and is the coding system used for diagnoses, procedures, and treatments within healthcare. ICD-9 specifically consists of three volumes: the first two volumes are diagnosis codes for healthcare claims while the third holds procedure codes for medical services.
Ever been denied an insurance claim because the service was “experimental” or “unnecessary”? That was because the code the provider submitted was different from the code your insurance used or preferred. A coding system keeps standardization and clear communication within healthcare; and obviously, accuracy and uniformity are essential in medical coding and billing careers.
ICD-10 – What’s changing?
The whole system is new! While ICD-9 has about13,000 codes, ICD-10 has roughly 155,000 codes (including Ebola) along with the flexibility to add new ones, and none of these codes overlap with the old system. The new codes are very specific, alphanumeric, and 3–7 characters in length. They can also be used in combination with other codes, making it easy to report multiple diagnoses or multifaceted procedures. Most importantly, the rest of the industrial world uses this system and relies on its specificity to be accurate in tracking the spread and development of diseases.
ICD-9 to ICD-10 – When & Why?
The U.S. is the last industrialized country to update to ICD-10 and has twice postponed the mandated adoption. Since the recent Ebola scare, our country has been reminded of how essential it is to have accurate communication when it comes to world health, and it is unlikely that the date will be postponed again.
Starting October 1, 2015, all medical coders and billers must use the ICD-10 diagnosis and procedure codes. If you are still using the ICD-9 coding system, you need to prepare by training for ICD-10.
ICD-10 – How to prepare?
If you are already employed as a medical coder and biller, it is likely that your employer will provide training or training options. If you are currently training for a medical coding and billing career, make sure your school is preparing you for the field you are about to enter—but, remember, the transition hasn’t happened yet. Ideally your program should teach both the ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding systems so you are prepared to start working before the transition, to help with dual coding efforts after the transition, and to have the ICD-10 skills employers will soon be requiring.
Need a plan to gain ICD-10 expertise? Invest in a quality program designed for coders like you, such as Career Step’s ICD-10 for ICD-9 Coders training program.
Don’t view this change as a burden; see it as an opportunity to better contribute to world and individual health through accurate, specific coding. Watch out infectious disease! We’ve got your number—well, your ICD-10 number.