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ICD-10: Where do I begin?

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  • In Coding
  • August 10, 2010
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By: Corrie Alvarez, CPC, CPC-I, CEDC, AAPC educator and PMCC Instructor
Since the AAPC’s annual conference in Jacksonville, I have been wearing my “Ask me about ICD-10” button at chapter meetings. So, what is the most frequently asked question? “How and when should I begin learning about ICD-10?”
It is an obvious question and the answer varies depending on the individual. Those beginning their coding career are worried about learning something new so soon, and those nearer the end of their coding careers don’t think they can learn something new. Whichever group you belong to, I can assure you that if you code now, you will be able to code in ICD-10. You have time to prepare and the key to your success will be in the planning, and staying on track with your plan.  Here are five things you can do now to prepare for ICD-10.

  1. Decide where you want to be on October 1, 2013.

ICD-10 will give most of us an opportunity to expand or change our current roles. With the need for more detailed information in the patient’s medical record, there will be an increase to the queries we send to our providers. This will increase significantly the interaction between coders and the medical staff. Are you prepared for this? Training providers takes a different skill set, and if you have a desire to take up this new challenge you need to be prepared for it. Begin work on your communication practices now.

  1. Develop an action plan.

The action plan can be a simple excel spreadsheet with your ICD-10 goals and objectives. You also can use your benchmark tracker on the AAPC website to track your progress. Make sure you indicate timelines and have a space to note your progress. This will be a working document that may change over time, but having your goals in writing will not only help keep you focused, it will get you there!

  1. Assess your current skill level with medical terminology and anatomy.

ICD-10 represents a significant improvement over ICD-9. There are twice as many categories and currently 69,000+ codes consisting of up to seven alpha-numeric characters. Obviously this will increase the level of specificity required when coding.  If necessary, update your medical terminology and anatomy knowledge within the next year.  Having an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and terminology will help you ease the transition into ICD-10-CM and lessen productivity losses.

  1. Research and find useful websites

Look for websites that are providing useful, updated ICD-10 information.
This may be CMS, AMA or AAPC, for example. Don’t forget to search the top carriers in your region as well. Bookmark them and scan them at least monthly for updated information.

  1. Find an 1CD-10 partner

Find someone who is looking for the same thing as you. If it’s someone at work, plan to bring your lunch at least twice monthly to share your findings and discuss recent articles. In addition, you can go to the “find a chapter” section on the AAPC website and find local chapters in your region and consider attending their meetings if the topic is on ICD-10.  Find other coders to carpool with. Not only will it make the drive enjoyable, it will make you more comfortable having someone you know with you.
Although the idea of ICD-10 can be confusing and intimidating, it is manageable with proper planning, these five simple tips will help get you started on your journey to the October 1, 2013 implementation date. Remember this is a journey and not an event. By following these steps you will be ahead of the game and be ready to improve the success of your practice, which in turn will help you further your career.  By being prepared, you will find that ICD-10, rather than an object of fear, can be a tool to bring you success.

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