All Aboard the Coding Train? Next Stop ICD-10 Conversion

Alex Tate
Alex Tate

Guest post by Alex Tate, digital marketing specialist, content strategist and a health IT consultant at CureMD.

Most conductors are sounding out the last call for passengers to climb aboard the ICD-10 train. Although the trains won’t reach full steam until Oct. 1, 2015, the test runs will commence shortly. You’re probably wondering why passengers have to sit through these test runs, right? This is because the journey will last for at least 10 years, so everyone needs to get accustomed to the environment of this locomotive.

Your practice is the train, you are its railroad engineer, the conductor is your practice manager, but who are the passengers? Surely not the patients; they don’t need to apply the codes, do they? The answer to both questions is no. The passengers are your medical billing software vendors, you clearinghouses, your payers, and most importantly – your billers and coders.

If you haven’t started inquiring if these stakeholders and their systems will be ready before time, you could suffer from huge reimbursement disruptions once claims become dependent on these new codes. However, you still have time to get your engines running, and here’s what you need to do:

  1. Contact your medical billing vendor

The first passenger on your train, irrespective of the number of trolleys you’re carrying, is your practice management (PM) or medical billing software vendor. This is because you need to inquire if your billing software is ready for the new codes. If not, you’ll not be able to get your claims through because they’ll contain defunct codes.

Additionally, you must also inquire if the vendor has a clear mapping process for ICD-10 conversion. If upgrades cost extra, or if you’ll need more training, you should have that in mind beforehand.

Lastly, ask them when you’ll be able to begin internal and external testing using these new codes, and if they have any recommendations for streamlining the process.

  1. Assess your billing team: outsourcing is an option

Tell your practice manager to provide you with a detailed plan of how much training your billing team will need, and if you’ll need to hire an additional professional for coding. If these costs appear to be too high, consider outsourcing the service to a competent billing company.

Even for this, you’ll need a fair amount of research as there are a lot of sub-standard billing companies out there.

  1. Ask your clearinghouse for reports

If you’re using the services of a clearinghouse, tell them to provide you with a list of:

Using stats for your top 10 payers, you’ll know which claims to pay additional attention to, post ICD-10 of course. The stats on current denials and rejections will give you an area to focus on prior to ICD-10. You’ll know that you’re making mistakes in certain claims more than others, and that they need to be fixed. This will also reduce potential revenue decreases once ICD-10 comes into effect.

Lastly, also request for a list of your practice’s most used ICD-9 codes, and a list of their counterparts for ICD-10. Note that these codes might be more in number as ICD-10 has more defined, lateral codes.

  1. Get in touch with your payers

And lastly, don’t forget to take your payers onboard as they’re the ones responsible for replacing white electronic claims with green dollar bills. Ask them how soon you can begin external testing with their systems, and if their ICD-10 upgraded systems are compatible with your billing software.

With these passengers onboard, you’re all set to begin internal testing of these new codes until July, then commence more test runs in the form of external testing from June till September, and then begin the actual journey on October 1.

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