Coding Changes Are Coming! An EMR System Can Help

The ICD-10 codes have been out for less than a year. ICD-10 sports five times as many codes as ICD-9, and already major code additions and revisions are on the way. 1900 code changes were proposed at the March meeting of the Coordination and Maintenance Committee, covering everything from ectopic pregnancy to the Zika virus. That’s on top of nearly 4,000 new codes already set to roll out in Fall of 2016.

 The increased specificity ICD-10 provides is meant to improve diagnostic coding and even streamline payout rates. But it’s a lot to keep track of, and plenty of practices are intimidated by the prospect, even with this year’s specificity grace period. EMR software can be the partner you need to help you navigate the complexity of the ICD-10 system, and make sure your practice is implementing the changes smoothly. How can it help?

1. EMRs conduct automatic updates. If seventh-character code extensions are intimidating your office staff, imagine how nervous they are about new and revised codes. New codes are longer, too, up to seven digits compared to the three to five digit ICD-9 codes. But EMRs can help make the process of adopting new codes relatively painless. As changes roll out, cloud-based EMR software can roll with them, providing you with constant code updates so that you can be sure you’ve got the correct codes.

 2. EMRs provide easy access to prior patient visits. Because you’ve got centralized, digital records, you won’t have to go hunting for codes. You’ll be able to build a complete portrait of a patient’s needs using multiple codes. You can feel secure that none of that information is being lost or forgotten from visit to visit. And you’ll be able to pass it along to specialists, therapists, and lab technicians, too.

 3. EMRs make finding the right code easier. As we mentioned earlier, physicians are still operating in what the CMS is calling a “specificity grace period”, which means that as long as the codes you choose are in the right family, you’re unlikely to be penalized if they’re not as specific as they ought to be. That said, the grace period will draw to a close right as the 4,000 codes we mentioned earlier are added. So, how do you ensure that you’re choosing the specific codes you should be? Well-thought-out EMR software is designed to help you search for and narrow down codes, saving you time and effort.

EMRs are not a substitute for medical and billing expertise. It’s important to train employees on ICD-10 using the many free resources available, and make sure they understand how to use the many tools your medical record and billing software provides. But EMRs are a flexible resource that can help a savvy practice improve implementation of ICD-10 codes and stay abreast of updates.