Why ICD-10 training should start sooner than later

By Carl Natale
10:51 AM

There is a conventional wisdom that dictates that healthcare providers don't need to train medical coders on how to work with the ICD-10 code sets yet.

Because if they start now, they won't need to use the codes until Oct. 1, 2014. In that time, they're likely to forget everything that medical practices and hospitals pay for them to learn.

But that's assuming that ICD-10 transition plans are a three-part process:

  1. Healthcare IT (HIT) departments and/or vendors install ICD-10 compliant systems
  2. Clinical staff and medical coders learn the appropriate amount of knowledge to work with the ICD-10 code sets
  3. Medical coders start using the ICD10 codes in 2014

Except there's going to be a little bit more work than that.

For example, healthcare providers need to work on productivity and clinical documentation. And Linda Renee Brown says that requires someone to understand ICD-10 codes and distribute that knowledge to the staff. "Everything you teach physicians about documentation for ICD-10 will improve their documentation under ICD-9," she says.

Starting training now becomes very compelling if the knowledge is used to improve ICD-9 coding, productivity and reimbursements. Some sort of return on investment can be gained sooner than later.

Brown is approaching this from a formal clinical documentation improvement (CDI) position. That may be a luxury for many organizations. But a medical coder willing to learn ICD-10 coding now can become the lead person in the ICD-10 steering committee (or become the committee), documentation specialist and trainer. Not a bad position for the medical coder planning a career path.

The takeaway is that steps can be taken now to prepare for ICD-10 implementation that will have short-term improvements. Hopefully that can take some of the sting out of paying for it.


Carl Natale blogs regularly at ICD10Watch.com.