In just over two years, the US health system will shift from the ICD-9 to ICD-10 transaction standard. The move to ICD-10 will undoubtedly result in better insight into individual patient conditions and create a wealth of data to assess the efficiency of healthcare delivery, population disease states, and the quality of care. However, the increase from 14,000 to 68,000 unique codes promises to be both expensive and challenging in terms of IT system updates, training for staff and physicians, and potential losses in productivity.

To minimize adoption challenges, providers are considering advanced technologies for identifying the most appropriate codes. Automated coding tools – particularly those embedded in an EHR, can maximize practice efficiencies and streamline the coding process. Consider some of these benefits:

  1. Fewer transition challenges and expenses. Without ICD-10 automation tools, physicians and coders will require extensive training on the new code set and providers may need to hire additional coders. Coding errors are likely, especially during the transition. When coding tools are part of the clinical documentation process, less provider training is required because physicians are offered appropriate codes based on the patient’s history and current documentation. Coding accuracy is enhanced, meaning fewer claim corrections and faster claim processing and payment.
  2. Physicians save time. ICD-10 automation tools, particularly those that can sift through a patient’s complete history and identify items relevant to a current visit, can save physicians considerable time. More than ever before, providers have access to vast amounts of clinical data from health information exchanges, hospitals, labs, and other providers. Technology exists today that will sort through the data – regardless of the original source and terminology – and create logical links between clinical information. This means that when a physician reviews a patient record and creates a chart note, the system not only advises the provider of relevant history but also considers the historical data when proposing ICD-10 codes.
  3. The coding process is more efficient. When the system automatically prompts providers with appropriate codes during the documentation process, physicians can remain in the chart entry area while identifying the accurate codes. Coders             don’t need to review the documentation to assign codes, nor hunt for codes themselves.
  4. Codes are more accurate. The use of automated ICD-10 technology can result in more precise coding when both a patient’s current visit and relevant clinical history are considered. Codes are identified and entered correctly at the point of care, resulting in more accurate and timely reimbursement. When codes are accurate the first time, providers and staff do not waste time and resources making corrections.
  5. Workflow is smoother. ICD-10 coding technology allows providers to identify correct codes while documenting a patient visit at the point of care. Physicians sign off on charts immediately, rather than interrupting the care process to hunt for codes or waiting until the end of a long day to complete coding and close charts. Providers save time and are assured that documentation and coding are final as soon as the visit is over.

The move to ICD-10 will challenge healthcare providers. The implementation of solid automated ICD-10 coding tools can ease the transition pain.

 David Lareau is CEO of Medicomp Systems, the inventor of clinical content, technologies, and mappings, which improve EHR usability at the point of care while satisfying all documentation and compliance requirements.