Accuracy vital for using ICD-10 diagnosis codes

Medical practitioners could see better ICD-10 transition results if they are more specific about the codes they use.

The number of codes that will be a part of ICD-10 can be so vast as to intimidate inexperienced practices or put them at a disadvantage. Hospitals and care organizations have to promote accuracy and encourage all involved to use the right references for all relevant codes. A lack of ICD-10 understanding could be a sign that improvement is needed. Once physicians have a better idea of which codes are too vague and need to be discarded, practices could be more efficient..

Betsy Nicoletti discusses this in an article for Medscape, where she addresses some of the issues that could prevent compliance with these codes and cost health entities time and money. Since ICD-10 adds 54,000 diagnosis codes for physicians to navigate, a physician consultant could offer some increasingly necessary guidance in reviewing code practices.

In her article, Nicoletti says that some codes are not listed accurately at hospitals, giving physicians the idea that they are the proper choice when in fact they are broad and could confuse coders.

"Run a list of your most frequently used diagnosis codes and identify these unspecified codes," she advises. "Look at the descriptions of them in your EHR. In some systems, the descriptions have been changed by the staff. For example, 682.9 may be described as cellulitis and used for cellulitis in all locations on the body. However, 682.9 is actually cellulitis – unspecified location."

Optimizing coding is just one part of successfully preparing for ICD-10, but it is now especially urgent since the deadline occurs later this year. Carl Natale of ICD10 Watch suggests that the most common ICD-10 codes used by a medical practice should be followed and upgraded as necessary.

Healthcare coding and consulting services could help with both coding and billing in cases where practices are not getting the most from their use of important codes.

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