CMS: ICD-9 codes could help transition

Strategic code selection will ease the pain of the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 for practices.

Transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10 doesn't necessarily mean ignoring the older code set completely. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claims the similarity between these two systems could help healthcare professionals successfully adjust to the high amount of new codes. Focusing on discriminate code selection gives practices a more manageable way to address the new identifiers. As a case in point, the existing ICD-9 codes in use could be a possible aid to determining which codes will be valid in the new set.

RevCycleIntelligence's Jacqueline DiChiara referenced the CMS' recent attempts to promote an accurate perception of what ICD-10 conversion should entail. One of the points outlined in this piece is the fact that ICD-9 can act as a "guide," since the actual process of looking for codes will reportedly be similar in both.

Since practices likely will only use a small percentage of the available codes, just as they do in ICD-9, forming a strategy based around this gives them some initial ideas to base the conversion off of, instead of beginning without a coherent plan in mind. 

Using both the alphabetic and tabular indexes associated with ICD-10 will help practices find a specific code and verify it. Writing for Physicians Practice, Brenda Edwards suggests "finding the condition in the alphabetic index, verifying the code and looking for the highest specificity in the tabular index, and reviewing the chapter-specific coding guidelines for any additional guidance."

However, ICD-9 knowledge alone is not suitable for preparing for transition: Both code sets have to be understood in the context of the practice's specific field of work. To restructure their typical behavior and be more ICD-10-friendly, practices should find healthcare consulting firms that make regulatory compliance consulting easier.

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