We all know the transition to ICD-10 coding, previously scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1, 2014, has been postponed for one year due to Congress adopting the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014.

But is this delay a one-year reprieve for your anesthesiology practice from having to think about ICD-10? Not if you take a smart approach.

Even with the extra year, those months will slip away quickly. To avoid it sneaking up on you, here are some things your practice should consider to effectively incorporate the extra time into your transition planning.

Move forward with dual coding

If you have already engaged in some ICD-10 training, you’ll want to be sure that all practitioners and billing staff maintain their knowledge over the next 17 months. ICD-10 Watch recommends that the most straightforward way to do this is to aim for full dual coding as soon as possible.

This effort will cause some interim slowdowns, but those slower processing times will more than pay for themselves as they reveal shortcomings in documentation and allow everyone to become familiar with the differences between ICD-9 and ICD-10. Also, the stronger documentation needed for ICD-10 will improve the integrity of your ICD-9 coding in the meantime.

Re-evaluate plans to use “crosswalks”

Some practices that felt acute time pressure to meet the 2014 deadline made plans to use translation or “crosswalk” programs that offer partial automatic conversion of ICD-9 codes to ICD-10.

Now that the deadline has been extended, Government Health IT urges medical practices to reconsider the use of these interim helpers. They point out that you will have a far more robust system to make the switch if you “use the time to prepare all back end systems to receive and process ICD-10 codes.”

Expand your testing procedures

A National Pilot Program test of ICD-10, performed in 2013, revealed several issues with the system. You can run some internal tests, in conjunction with any business partners that are ready for the new coding regime and discover for yourself where the problem areas are.

In the Pilot Program’s test run, for example, zeroes were mixed up with the letter “O” and the number 1 was mixed up with the letter “I”. This is just one small instance of unforeseen problems that can be easily remedied, once they are discovered.

Stay in touch with developing news

As the healthcare landscape becomes increasingly complex, public policy issues such as medical coding fall under the authority of numerous public and private organizations. Subscribe to email updates on this topic from CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and designate someone in your office to be responsible for reading and distributing all relevant announcements.

By staying focused on ICD-10 preparation, and keeping in touch with public conversation about this transition, your practice will be able to make a trouble-free transition in 2015.

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