Depending on who you talk to, the countdown to ICD-10 offers the same excitement and wonder of the Olympic Games. Considering the amount of training and preparation most practices have undergone, the comparison to world-class athletes competing for gold isn’t that far off.
What exactly will happen come October 1st? Will there be a decline in coding efficiency as many industry experts have predicted? So far only 2% of claims were denied due to coding errors during Medicare’s recent end-to-end testing weeks. But this figure reflects only the small portion of practices that partook in the testing. The bottom line is, come October 1st when that switch is finally thrown and only ICD-10 codes are accepted, many coders may find it difficult to keep up and stay productive.
Here are 5 things you can do to ensure your coder(s) stay productive after ICD-10’s implementation:
An Olympic athlete doesn’t attempt a triple sokow or a javelin throw without proper training. In order for coders to maintain a high level of productivity during the ICD-10 transition and through the months that follow, they must be intelligently and efficiently trained.
And so we’re clear, comprehensive training goes well beyond a simple weekend training session, even if that weekend session is intensive. Effective training involves continuous, ongoing practice in utilizing ICD-10-CM/PCS codes on actual patient health records. Although more time consuming now, coders should be double coding a couple of charts per day (even more is better) to help them learn the nuances between ICD-9 and ICD-10.
If you have more than one coder you’ll need to take their individual assessments into account to determine how much training and practice they each need. Your coders’ practice time should obviously focus only on those codes that are needed for diagnoses and procedures your office uses the most. Make sure your coders are given the opportunity to speak with each other for help and make yourself available as well to answer any questions.
The ICD-10 transition isn’t going to be a cheap one and you’re no doubt going to be tempted to take certain shortcuts with training to save some money. But this move could cost you in the long run when your coder(s) are not able to keep up and more claims get denied, slowing down your revenue cycle.
Also be aware that your coders will now require a greater understanding of anatomy and physiology. Some industry experts are saying that those subjects alone will require 40-50 hours of training minimum for real comprehension.
Don’t miss your chance to prepare your practice for the Oct. 1, 2015, transition. Register now for Our ICD-10 training webinar for Internal medicine where Dr. Gwilliam, a certified ICD-10 instructor, will build on the basics and dive into specialty specific guidelines for Internal medicine.
Watch Who You Hire
Many providers are considering hiring new coders to help with the increased workload and learning curve. While some may be reluctant to hire recent college graduates for fear they lack enough professional experience, the opposite perspective is actually more accurate.
Generally speaking, recent graduates tend to possess more current knowledge than those who have been working in the industry for many years. There is something to be said for only being familiar with the new instead of being stuck in the old. Not only are recent graduates required to meet rigorous standards but must also show a high level of coding proficiency.
If you are considering hiring either temporary or long-term coders, you may want to include a fresh face on your staff who can assist your other coders during and after the transition.
Why Computer-Assisted Coding (CAC) is a Good Thing
Computer-assisted coding (CAC) won’t code for you, per se, but it can save your coders a lot of time by doing the initial leg work. CAC has the ability to assign codes up front based on the documentation. From there your coders can verify the validity of the codes as an auditor would. Once your coder(s) get up to speed working with a CAC system, they should be able to increase their productivity and output significantly. Having said this, implementing CAC and ICD-10 at the same time is probably not a good idea because your coder(s) would be doubly overwhelmed with too many changes. With only about a month left before October 1st, if you haven’t implemented a CAC system yet, it’s best to wait a few months after the transition and implement it then.
Consider Making Changes to Workflow
One way to maximize your coders’ efficiency is to capitalize on their individual strengths. This is especially true when working in a multi-doctor multi-specialty office, where coder specialty is bound to happen. So consider assigning certain specialties to certain coders who have shown strengths in that area and get your practice ready for the biggest change.
Clean Up That Backlog
It is fairly obvious that it is going to be extremely hard for coders to stay productive moving forward when they still have an old ICD-9 backlog to concentrate on. In order to clean up this backlog you may have to hire extra help, or have your coders come in on their days off. Not something they want to do, of course, but if it will help their productivity after October 1st, then it’s simply something that has to be done. If you have more than one coder, consider staggering their ICD-10 training times so one can be working on the backlog while the other(s) are being trained and dealing with that day’s charts.
Since no one can really predict what will happen come October 1st, the best you can do is make sure your staff is as ready as they can be. Hopefully these guidelines will create actionable and positive change at your practice come October 2nd and beyond.