Overcoming the Challenges of Early ICD-10 Adoption

With 2014 just around the corner, practices should begin making their ICD-10 transition strategy a top priority. Because while the new coding set is expected to produce higher reimbursements down the line, its sheer complexity can be unbelievably disruptive for practices.

In an effort to ensure they’ll be ready in time, some practices are planning to implement ICD-10 coding ahead of the final October 1 transition date. In fact, a recent HRAA survey of more than 120 hospitals found that only 31% of providers aren’t planning to dual code prior to October 1.

Still, dual coding brings its own set of dilemmas. So today, we evaluate both the benefits and challenges of transitioning early.

Why Switch Early

Work out the kinks  Although claims coded using ICD-10 won’t be accepted until months later, the early implementation allows your staff to make mistakes without incurring claim denials.

Identify changes in workflows – Early implementation lets you identify potential workflow alterations such as a need to redistribute resources. For instance, it may be a good idea to dedicate additional staff toward coding-related tasks during the transition.

Data mining – Dual coding generates solid, comparative data for forecasting and helps assess coder productivity.

Future efficiency – If your staff can pull off double coding, using ICD-10 exclusively after October 1 should be a relative breeze. Your staff may actually have extra time on their hands after the transition date since they will be accustomed to having an increased workload.

Helpful Health IT – Some health IT billing solutions can map ICD-10 codes back to ICD-9 for you, so your practice can transition workflow easier prior to the deadline. This can ease the burden on your practice.


Double the work – Adopting ICD-10 early entails coding in both ICD-9 and ICD-10 simultaneously, potentially hindering your coder’s ability to remain efficient in an already taxing environment.

Staff Resistance – Some staff won’t be fond of early adoption since their workloads will temporarily increase. If you do face some resistance, sympathize with their concerns and possibly offer a small incentive for their hard work. Then, explain how going through extra work now will make their life easier later.

Other constraints – Dual coding also places additional demands on your budget, staff and workflow, so the key for success will be striking a balance between both systems while remaining profitable.

Dual coding can be a critical step for ensuring your staff is knowledgeable and prepared for the ICD-10 code set. As the deadline approaches, have staff conduct extensive test transactions using ICD-10 codes with all of your payers and clearinghouses.

Ultimately, it’s your billing department’s responsibility to make sure the practice is getting paid appropriately. So they’ll want to be up to speed with ICD-10 as early as possible.

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