The transition to ICD-10 was easier than many had expected

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When the costly and exhausting transition to the ICD-10 coding system occurred in October, some experts within the healthcare industry expected large-scale disruption and cataclysmic hits to providers’ cash flow.

But dire predictions about negative effects of the move didn’t come to pass and now, eight months later, one of the leading organizations tracking the transition says its most recent survey shows minimal effects.

Coding accuracy is hovering around 65 percent now, and the average productivity decline was only 14 percent, much lower than expected, according to a study by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the AHIMA Foundation.

“Health Information Management (HIM) professionals are already coding with the same degree of accuracy as (they were) in ICD-9,” AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon says in comments on the results. “With any change, there will be an initial period of productivity decline, but we fully expect this decrease will be short term in nature. In fact, respondents indicated in the survey that they have become more comfortable with the new code set with each day, and productivity decreases continue to lessen.”

Many survey respondents noted that the implementation of new computer-assisted coding (CAC) technology occurred at the same time as the introduction of the ICD-10 code set, which may account for some portion of the productivity decline. Health information management professionals who worked in inpatient settings had less of a productivity decline than those who worked in outpatient settings, survey data show.

AHIMA and the AHIMA Foundation plan to conduct another survey in May 2017 to determine trends in productivity and accuracy.

The U.S. was one of the last developed countries to switch to the ICD-10 code set, which contains many more codes than ICD-9 and enables medical records and bills to contain much more detail. The switchover had been delayed at least twice, but last year, federal agencies were clear that the new code set would be required for bills submitted to Medicare.

“The greater specificity in ICD-10 will provide for a more accurate and complete patient story and a more meaningful way to track the outcomes of care,” Thomas Gordon said.

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