ICD-10 Codes: What Are They?

By Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT on March 21, 2013

On October 1, 2014, ICD-10 codes will officially be implemented. Adjusting from old to new medical codes can be very frustrating without a physical therapy software to rely on.

Nitin Chhoda explains how switching to electronic medical records will make the transition simpler.

ICD-10 codesA lot has changed since the implementation of ICD-9 coding. New diseases have been discovered, a better understanding of old ailments is available, and advances in treatment have made the old codes obsolete.

Therapists have been struggling for years trying to code for treatments and services that didn’t quite fit the range of possibilities available through the new techniques and technology. That’s all changing with the switch to ICD-10 codes in October 2014.

New Coding Options

The good news is that several thousand new coding options will be introduced into the current system of 13,600, making it easier for practice owners to bill for new treatments and procedures.

While it opens up multiple opportunities for clinics, the number of new codes will wreak havoc with practices without electronic medical records. ICD-10 codes are the first coding update since 1977 and it’s going to take the medical field by storm.

The ICD-10 codes represent the 10th update of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). It includes many codes not used in other countries.

While many therapists may never provide services to those from a foreign land, they must be aware of the differences in coding when dealing with insurance providers in other countries, along with modifications made by those sovereigns.

Greater Latitude

The upcoming changes in coding offers therapists greater latitude when submitting reimbursement claims and providing treatments. The deadline for implementation has been pushed back many times.

The most recent delay, from Oct. 1, 2013 to Oct. 1, 2014, was partly instituted to allow those in the medical field to establish an EMR in their practice to facilitate the use of the new codes.

ICD-10 codes are significantly different from the old codes, range from 3-7 digits in length, and are used for documenting a diagnosis. An EMR will make the transition significantly smoother, but will still require extensive planning and staff training.

To add another level of difficulty to the transition, before therapists could use the new coding, they had to implement HIPAA’s 5010 transaction standards. Claims for reimbursement that don’t use the ICD-10 codes after the deadline will be rejected.

Major Changes

ICD-10 codes definedThe changes in coding affect medical providers, impacts insurance companies, and how practice owners are reimbursed. The ICD-10 codes reflect changes in all facets of healthcare, from new diseases and vaccines to medications and treatments.

The changes provide therapists to code in greater detail and offer more specific details about each diagnosis. The coding allows therapists to provide new services and offers more opportunities to be paid, but clinic owners should expect the changes to be disruptive at first.

In a world of international travel where pandemics are a real concern, the new ICD-10 codes will assist health and medical authorities track contagious and potentially devastating diseases that include various types of flu, HIV and AIDS, along with cancers in all its many forms. They will assist organizations that include the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control.

The ICD-10 codes represent an update that’s long overdue.

The new coding allows for a greater range of diagnosis and will be required if therapists are to be reimbursed for their treatments and services.

The first ICD codes were developed by Jacques Bertillon in 1893 France and adopted by the U.S. in 1898.

Technology and medical knowledge has improved steadily throughout the centuries and the latest incarnation of the ICD codes provides therapists with the tools to manage patient care and the profitability of their practices more efficiently.

About Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT

Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT is the CEO of In Touch EMR and In Touch Biller Pro, an electronic medical records and medical billing software system built be leaders in the physical therapy software industry, with thousands of satisfied customers across the world. For more information, please visit www.InTouchEmr.com and www.InTouchBillerPro.com

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