The biggest difference between the two code sets is the structure of the codes. The ICD-10 code set is up to seven alphanumeric characters, while ICD-9 only has three to five characters. Also, the “V” and “E” codes from ICD-9 will no longer exist. The sixth digit in ICD-10 will mainly be numeric and will identify laterality and drug poisoning. Information technology and practice management software in practices will be greatly affected. The volume of codes will be greater and the code descriptors will be different. Systems will have to be updated to properly identify the new codes—and this means significant training will be necessary for physicians, coders, and other nonphysician health professionals.
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Explore This IssueMay 2011
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Rheumatology practices should purchase a draft copy of the ICD-10 manual so staff can become familiar with the codes. Also, cross-training staff will play a vital role in making the transition to ICD-10. Anticipate disruption to reimbursement due to rejections and denials while systems are being crossed over to the new code set. Also expect a higher-than-usual number of appeals and refiled claims because ICD-9 codes will still be used for the first nine months of 2013. Now is a good time for practices to cross-train staff to help the practice weather the transition.
It is important for all coders to have the necessary training and education for ICD-10. Coders who hold a coding membership from the AAPC will have to take a proficiency exam for ICD-10 beginning October 1, 2012. Coders will have two years to pass the exam, which will test the ability to code using the new code set. The exam will consist of 75 questions and will be available online. Contact the AAPC for more information on the proficiency exam.
How the ACR Can Help You Prepare
With only two years until the compliance date, the ACR is taking steps to prepare rheumatologists and their staff for ICD-10. A variety of resources such as webinars, audio conferences, and coding presentations will be available for members. In addition, there will be an ICD-10 practice session during the 2011 ACR/ARHP Annual Scientific Meeting in Chicago.
The ACR understands that this will not be an easy process and it will provide education and training to prepare rheumatologists and their staff to meet the October 1, 2013, compliance date for ICD-10. Currently, ACR coders are creating a crosswalk for the most common rheumatology codes and will make this available on the ACR website along with other resources and tools. As a first step, providers should appoint a point person take the lead and guide the practice through the implementation process. Keep in mind that while practices have two years to prepare, it’s important to make every moment count.