ICD-10: What’s Next

January 2016

In the first months following the deadline for ICD-10 implementation, healthcare organizations invested significantly in overhauling 14,000 old ICD-9 codes for 68,000 new ones, and there’s still work to be done. It was well known that the implementation of ICD-10, a major event in the modernization of healthcare, would not be cheap or easy.

In terms of explicit cost, according the a 2014 survey, the American Medical Association estimated the typical small, medium and large practice could ring up over $200,000, $800,000 and $8 million, respectively, on implementation. While most predictions overestimated the cost burden healthcare organizations would acquire, inefficiencies elsewhere have arisen that will continue to require resources as the full impact of implementation is realized. For example, matching the right code with the right diagnosis is still a process that requires adjustment by most organizations as confusion over new codes caused by small discrepancies from ICD-9 has resulted in a steep learning curve.

That said, ICD-10 ultimately will help improve and streamline operations for healthcare organizations – and at a cost less than what they initially anticipated. To ensure implementation is as painless as possible, having the right technical staff onboard is critical.

Addison Group, a staffing firm that specializes in placing medical coders, forecasts the following trends as healthcare organizations make the ICD-10 switch, and foresees these areas as a priority throughout 2016:

  • Revenue Cycle - Some organizations will shift their efforts to improving the revenue cycle, especially in receivables. Aside from needing cash to support the hospital, the switch to ICD-10 will increase the time it takes to code, and there will be an uptick in denials.
  • Coder Retention - ICD-10 coders are the hottest ticket on the market right now. Companies are stepping up efforts to retain these skilled employees, who are tempted by high salaries to go to other competitive healthcare organizations, or to coding shops. This is especially critical as healthcare companies are pressured to keep coding volume high.
  • Computer Assisted Coding - Technologies exist today that support the coding and documentation process. In 2016, more companies will be reviewing these systems for possible implementation.
  • Continued ICD-10 Work - “The Switch” to ICD-10 is far from over, and new problems will arise, like reduced productivity, as well as the need to continue in a dual-coding environment.

While there is still a long way to go before most organizations feel comfortable with the new coding documentation process, the initial ICD-10 implementation frenzy feared by many has turned out to be manageable.

In fact, initial reactions from health organizations to the ICD-10 implementation process have been largely positive. Within just the last few months, the functionality of the new ICD-10 code is apparent, offering a better process for classifying and analyzing patient diagnosis, and ultimately, greater efficiencies overall.