You may be wondering where I've been. Well, I've largely been off Twitter and the Coder Coach Facebook page and I obviously haven't been blogging. But like many other current coding professionals I've been very busy. For those of us preparing for ICD-10, it's being done in addition to our daily jobs. For me, that means switching hats between performing ICD-10 documentation reviews (I've coded over 300 records in ICD-10 so far!), writing training material, and presenting training to coders on ICD-9-CM and CPT subjects. I continue to chair the ICD-10 Task Force for the state of Colorado, although I now have a co-chair thanks to a very motivated and active task force.
Last month we received "the announcement" that the ICD-10 implementation is going to be pushed back. But so far, it's still a guessing game on when that will be. I have folks from organizations and students from schools asking me what this means. And you may also be wondering, what has changed with the announcement that ICD-10 is going to be delayed? Well, as of this writing, I can tell you in a two words: absolutely nothing.
Most experts agree that the thing to do now is stay the course and keep preparing for ICD-10 as if it will be implemented on October 1, 2013. Most speculations are that there will be a one-year delay, which means 1 more year for training and testing. Some providers here in Colorado are planning for dual coding of claims if they have extra time. Most agree that we are already so far behind as an industry that a short delay at this time would mean a sigh of relief for most providers. But let's be clear about one thing: this additional time is only a good thing if we keep pace with our current ICD-10 preparations.
The American Medical Association's efforts to stop ICD-10 have been well documented as have concerns from other associations alerting CMS that we need more time for testing and implementation. I would encourage everyone to become educated on the history of ICD-10 in the United States, as it dates back to 1993. That's right, nearly 20 years ago. That means that when I took my first coding class in 1993, we were talking about the impending conversion to ICD-10. Testing of the system started in 1997. In a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the National Committee of Vital Health Statistics presented a timeline of ICD-10 in the US. The insurance industry has reportedly already spent billions of dollars in the ICD-10 transition process. So for every argument you hear against adoption of ICD-10, there is an argument for it.
Will There Ever be an ICD-10?
If you're wondering if ICD-10 is really going to be a go, here's my two cents. Yes. It will be a go. There are various government health care initiatives on the horizon that require it. Every other industrialized country besides us uses it and we need it to compare data with them. In order to make sense of SNOMED-CT codes, which are used in electronic health records, we need ICD-10.
What About ICD-11?
ICD-11 is slated for release by the World Health Organization in 2015. Once published, the US will adapt the clinical modification (CM) we utilize here in the States. That conversion will take years. Most experts agree that we can't wait for ICD-11.
Should You Become a Coder Right Now?
If you're wondering if now is a good time to enter the coding profession, I still offer a resounding yes. Learn the basics now - there is so much to learn in ICD-9 that will carry over to ICD-10. Take the time to learn about disease process and procedures because, as I recently told someone, ICD-10 is going to separate the men from the boys. After coding ICD-10 almost full time for the last couple of months there are days when I want to cry and when it seems that no amount of googling will answer my question about a procedure. If you are the analytical type who isn't afraid of research, this could be the profession for you.
In addition, many organizations are taking advantage of this possible delay by implementing computer assisted coding (CAC) systems. When I first saw a CAC about 10 years ago I was not impressed. But I looked at a couple at the AHIMA conference in October and they have really come a long way. I was looking at the systems different from most of my colleagues. I was specifically looking at them as a training tool for fresh faced coders who are right out of school and I see a lot of potential there for newbies. So get your foot in the door now and start learning!
What's new with ICD-10? I say nothing. We're still moving forward as if October 1, 2013 is our deadline. Because one thing is for sure. If we - that is, an industry prone to procrastination - are given another delay, we don't want to be caught unprepared. And I don't think CMS will be gracious about allowing further deadline changes.