3 common ICD-10 myths, debunked

AHIMA clears the air with cold, hard facts
By Mike Miliard
11:32 AM
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Three of the most persistent and pernicious untruths about ICD-10 are tackled by AHIMA as confusion clouds the lead up to a long-overdue switchover.

[See also: ICD-10 conversion a hot topic at HIMSS14]

In the August issue of the Journal of AHIMA, Sue Bowman, senior director of coding policy and compliance at AHIMA, takes aim at some lingering misconceptions about ICD-10 as coders and IT workers, perhaps skeptical of the coming changes, move -- sometimes haltingly -- toward the October 2015 compliance date.

"The transition to ICD-10 continues to be inevitable and time sensitive," said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, in a press statement. "As the healthcare industry experiences an additional delay in ICD-10 implementation, now is the ideal time to rebut ICD-10 myths that continue to percolate."

[See also: ICD-10 'storm' posing dilemmas for health information management strategies]

The myths AHIMA seeks to dispel:

ICD-9 isn't so bad, really.

Simply put, ICD-9 is "obsolete," Bowman argues, and replacing it is a must. "Its limited structural design lacks the flexibility to keep pace with changes in medical practice and technology. The longer ICD-9-CM is in use, the more the quality of healthcare data will decline, leading to faulty decisions based on inaccurate or imprecise data.”

Moreover, she makes the case that, without ICD-10, "the value of investment in electronic health records is significantly diminished, as the more comprehensive and detailed information will be lost when aggregated into the outdated and ambiguous codes in ICD-9-CM."

The huge profusion in ICD-10 codes means it will be more difficult to use.

Many people forget that nearly half 46 percent of the additional new codes merely reflect the ability to differentiate one side of a patient's body from the other. More codes -- and more precise ones -- will in fact make it easier to find the right one, according to AHIMA.

An "increase in specificity, clinical accuracy and a logical structure facilitate -- rather than complicate -- the use of a code set," writes Bowman.

Why not just use SNOMED CT or move right ICD-11 instead? They're just as good.

Terminologies such as SNOMED and classification systems such as ICD-10 are complementary, with "separate but equally important roles" to play, AHIMA argues.

"Health records created and stored in electronic environments require the use of uniform health information standards, including a common medical language," writes Bowman. "Together terminologies and classification systems provide the common medical language necessary for interoperability and the effective sharing of clinical data."

She adds that, "SNOMED CT and ICD-10-CM/PCS used together in EHR systems can contribute to patient safety and evidence-based high-quality care provided at lower cost by leveraging a 'capture once, use many times' process."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization may predict that ICD-11 will be ready for prime time in 2017, but that date "marks the beginning, not the end of the process toward adoption," according to AHIMA, which reminds us that ICD-10 was first endorsed 1990 and first used by WHO members 1994.

Even then, "it took eight years to develop a U.S. modification of ICD-10 and a procedure coding system and 19 years for a final rule to be published."

All these years later, ICD-10 "has still not been implemented," in the U.S. Misconceptions like these are a big part of reason why, AHIMA argues.

Read Bowman's article here.