5 reasons to make peace with ICD-10

I think it was about a year ago that my children came home from school, and something or a series of somethings triggered one of our worst collective blowout-meltdowns of all time. I don't remember the catalyzing event, only that the kids were shrieking, falling all over themselves and calling each other names. They may have found some holes in my parental armor against everyday disdain and absurdity as well, which may or may have not led to a tearful tantrum of my own.

I would have forgotten all about (i.e., blocked out) that afternoon if I hadn't found the faded Post-It on which we worked on to set things right. In an effort to not just apologize but also press "reset" on our day and our relationships, I asked them to sit on the couch and help me make a list of everything we loved about one another.

My six-year-old recorded these qualities--an astounding number of them--on a two-by-two-inch sticky note. All three of us scored points for being "weird," my son was reminded we think he's creative and "hansom" and my daughter got appreciation for her "spunk." I don't have great solutions to problems all the time, but on a fluke that one had a profound and long-term effect on restoring peace to our home.

You may never love ICD-10, certainly not the way a mother loves her children. But you do have to live with it. It's unpacking its bags and moving into your practice tomorrow.

Throughout this countdown, reporting on the conversion to this coding system has been overwhelmingly negative, with FiercePracticeManagement offering little exception. But it can't hurt to attempt the official start of this journey on a better foot.

Here are some reminders of what there is to appreciate about ICD-10:

  • Potentially less billing fraud. "Especially in recent years, we've sort of limped along with a failing system," Sue Bowman, senior director of coding policy and compliance with the American Health Information Management Association told FierceHealthIT. "That makes it difficult to pull out and identify fraud patterns, especially if you have multiple conditions falling under one code. Under ICD-10, fraudsters won't be able to hide behind the gray areas like they did in ICD-9 because there will be fewer gray areas."
  • Better data to improve health. "The goal of ICD-10 is to help population management by being better able to track diseases and diagnoses," Kathy McCoy, a health IT blogger and social media contributor with experience in the electronic health records industry, reminded Medical Economics.
  • More opportunity to demonstrate value. Diagnosis coding is no longer just about avoiding denials, physician coding educator Betsy Nicoletti told the publication. In the ICD-10 system, these more granular codes help tell the real story of a patient's condition, potentially paving the way for more commensurate payments under value-based contracts.
  • Teambuilding. For the past several months, your coders, billers and clinicians have been working closely to learn the codes your practice will use most often, brush up on anatomy, review documentation, test with payers and vendors, and analyze work flows. The reality of how ICD-10 touched virtually everyone in a physician practice serves as a powerful reminder of how everyone's role is interconnected and can and should contribute to the group's overall success. If you can get through this conversion, you can do anything.
  • Connection to resources and support systems. Not just individual offices, but nearly the whole U.S. healthcare industry has come together to take on ICD-10. As a result of this process, you might know your payers and IT vendors a little better, and possibly built relationships with individuals at those entities willing to go the extra mile to help when you ask. You may have reached out to your state or specialty medical society and discovered a level of support you might not have otherwise sought. We've witnessed that when medical organizations band together, sometimes the powers that be do listen. It may not be total relief, but you do have a one-year grace period during which the govenment won't issue penalities for imperfect coding.

Do these points mean that the conversion won't be stressful or that serious disruptions to practices won't occur? No, but they're a starting point in turning anxiety into productive energy. With any luck, one day you'll look back on this list and recognize that a bunch of codes can't shake up the things that truly matter about your practice. - Deb (@PracticeMgt)