So You Were a Procrastinator…Now How Do You Prepare for ICD-10?

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  • April 23, 2015
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So You Were a Procrastinator…Now How Do You Prepare for ICD-10?

As I watched the votes for the SGR, the battles leading up to the votes, and the lobbying efforts from all sides, my head spun. And then I thought, if my head was spinning, how do all the physicians feel? How are they going to know what to do next?
Many sat back, procrastinating on ICD-10 implementation in the hopes that they would not waste resources and money if it was delayed, yet again. But now we are under a time crunch. It can be done—but it has to be done, now! These steps will help to get you on track.

  1. Engage with your vendors: If your vendors haven’t been in touch with you, you may have problems. Reach out to find out where they are in the implementation process and how it will affect you. Questions should include:
  • What offerings do they have for ICD-10?
  • How will updates be implemented?
  • How much will it cost?
  • When can you do testing?
  • What crosswalk solutions do they have?
  1. Query the health plans you contract with. Questions should include:
  • Are any terms of my contract being changed?
  • What medical policies are changing?
  • What is the policy on handling of unspecified codes?
  • When can we test with you?
  1. Educate your staff members. Everyone will need some level of training, and there are many free resources for training out there. Look for low-cost training through these avenues:
  • Vendor user groups
  • Medical and specialty societies
  • Podcasts (such as Talk Ten Tuesdays on
  • AAPC local chapters (there are more than 530 across the U.S.)
  • Health plans you contract with
  1. Beef up your documentation. Chances are, your medical records are not being documented with the highest level of specificity possible for patient encounters under current regulations. Starting now will not only prepare you for ICD-10, but it will also improve overall compliance. Start with these simple steps:
  • Run a practice management report of your most frequently utilized codes
  • Pull medical records that correspond with those diagnoses
  • Have coders review the records to see if a valid code can be assigned
  • Hold educational sessions to discuss improvements needed

Costs can be contained. Look for reputable vendors and free education. Any improvement you make on processes and documentation will benefit all areas of the practice outside of ICD-10, so you will have multiple benefits. But whatever you do, don’t procrastinate any longer. You need time to prepare!

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Rhonda Buckholtz
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Rhonda Buckholtz, CPC, CPMA, CRC, CDEO, CMPE, CHC, COPC, AAPC Approved Instructor, is owner of Coding and Reimbursement Experts. She spends her time helping physician practices achieve operational excellence, compliance, education, and Lean Six Sigma through her consulting. Buckholtz has more than 30 years of experience in healthcare management, compliance, and reimbursement/coding sectors. She was responsible for all ICD-10 training and curriculum at AAPC during the transition from ICD-9. Buckholtz has authored numerous articles for healthcare publications and she has spoken at numerous national conferences for AAPC and others. She is past co-chair for the WEDI ICD-10 Implementation Workgroup, Advanced Payment Models Workgroup, and she provided testimony for ICD-10 and standardization of data for National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics. Buckholtz is on AAPC’s National Advisory Board.

No Responses to “So You Were a Procrastinator…Now How Do You Prepare for ICD-10?”

  1. Patti VanScoy says:

    I have just earned certification as a Health Information Specialist from CCV in Vermont. My goal has always been to be a home- based, part-time biller/coder. I have received extensive instruction in the ICD-9 code set. I have not yet taken a certification exam. My question is: should I spend the next few months attempting fluency in ICD-10 to prepare for that exam, or should I take an exam testing ICD-9? I am semi- retired and do not have an immediate need for employment. However, I am speculative about the best approach to take at this juncture.
    Thank you for your advice,

  2. Brenda Rolle-Rigby says:

    Concentrate on ICD-10 testing only because ICD-9 will not be used effective October 1st, 2015.