The Coder’s Perspective
Recently, two members of the STAT Solutions coding team received certificates of ICD-10 proficiency.
After attending a weekend seminar with the local chapter of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), completing additional AAPC work online, and sitting for a two-and-a-half hour certification exam, Kathi Carney, CPC, and Donna Baker, CPC, expressed relief … and optimism.
“I was a little nervous,” Baker said about tackling the switchover. “I know a lot of the ICD-9 diagnosis codes by heart.”
The sheer volume of codes is what has so many intimidated, but Baker and Carney found the ICD-10 formulary to be logical. “Every digit and every letter means something. It does make sense and flow,” Carney said. “Once you figure out how it’s set up, it makes sense,” she added.
Based on anatomy and with an emphasis on laterality, the coders noted one ICD-9 code could easily convert into 20 or more ICD-10 codes.
“The choice of codes is so much greater, physicians will need to be more in tune to their documentation,” Carney said.
STAT Solutions, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Crosslin & Associates, offers a range of practice management services including outsourced billing and coding consulting. Despite another implementation delay, the coders said they wanted to be prepared to help clients make the eventual change.
Justin Crosslin, a principal with the firm, noted practices are being slammed on all fronts with a host of sweeping changes. “Change is never easy, and the healthcare industry is so heavily regulated it makes it difficult to operate as a business while staying focused on patient care,” he said. Crosslin added it isn’t surprising the AMA and many providers are frustrated. “There is a lot of pushback to any real change because it is costly and disruptive in the short term.”
However, he continued, he does think improved delivery and operations will be the result of all the changes occurring now. “It helps everyone … it’s just a painful process to get to that point.”
Everyone seems to agree disruption and decreased productivity are going to be a way of life for a period of time whenever the conversion occurs. Baker said provider productivity is anticipated to decrease 10-20 percent due to the significant increase in queries in the ICD-10 documentation and additional time spent with patients … estimated at one to two additional minutes per appointment. Although a few minutes might not seem like a lot of time, when multiplied over a week by every documenting provider, it’s easy to see why patient volume is expected to drop.
The good news, Carney said, is there are many ICD-10 resources available and local consultants to help … and now providers have extra time to seek out that help. “We’ll be ready,” Carney confidently stated of her firm’s ability to help practices navigate the learning curve.