What Medical Billing & Coding Professionals Need to Know About ICD-10 and EHR Changes
Electronic health records (EHRs) have become the standard way of doing business in medical facilities across the United States. While traditional “on-paper” billing and coding has an important role to fill in the medical industry, electronic health records are changing the way the businesses that provide these services are run.
EHRs and Billing Codes
The changes being brought about by electronic health records aren’t all that significant right now. However, they will start to become more noticeable in the coming years as their implementation, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, is rolled out to its fullest extent.
Right now, medical billers and coders use 13,600 codes to get the correct numbers for diagnostic procedures and doctor’s visits in order to bill insurers, according to Carrington College. This number was initially scheduled to increase to 69,000 codes when the coding system changes from ICD-9 to ICD-10 in October of this year, however, this has been pushed back until 2015. That is a lot of coding numbers for medical billing and coding specialists to work with.
With the new release date comes discussion of possible issues with implementing the ICD-10. Those in favor of the changed date, writes Modern Healthcare, were afraid that their systems would not be updated in time, and they are also concerned about having the time to make sure that everyone is properly trained to use them. They’re hoping that the extra time will allow for enough preparation so that the transition will go smoothly.
The Impact of EHRs and Billing Code Changes on Professionals Working in the Industry
The big change in how medical billing and coding specialists do their jobs will come from the introduction of electronic health records. Some medical billing and coding specialists are concerned about what the introduction of these records will do to their industry. Will it increase their workload or make their jobs harder? The good news is that the answer is no. In fact, the introduction of electronic health records will actually make these jobs easier, according to Kareo. Here’s what you need to know about electronic health records and how they will affect and change the medical billing and coding profession.
How Will Electronic Health Records Make the Jobs of Medical Billing and Coding Specialists Easier?
Usually, anything that is in electronic format will reduce workload in some way in any industry. In the medical billing and coding industry, electronic health records will streamline the way these specialists do their jobs by:
- Simplifying the organization of paperwork
- Reducing patient care errors
- Cutting costs in the health care industry in general
- Making the justification of reimbursement from insurance companies easier
- Allowing medical billing and coding specialists to keep a legal record of medical events
- Permitting coordination with a patient’s insurance policy to generate more accurate bills more easily
Will All Medical Billing and Coding Specialists Be Required to Learn the New ICD-10 System?
Yes, this will be a requirement for anyone currently in the profession or entering it. Those who are in school for this career field are learning it now, as they will be required to know it upon graduation. According to ICD10Watch, the date for compliance for knowing the new ICD-10 system is now October 1, 2015, so anyone currently in the profession should be learning it now.
In fact, all health care providers will need to be able to use the ICD-10 to complete patient transactions by the compliance date. This is true whether or not they will be using electronic health records. Some health care providers were given the option of not switching over to electronic health record, though it is expected that most will.
The ways in which using these records will improve efficiency in the office makes implementing the switch an attractive choice. However, while electronic health records are not yet mandatory for every medical provider to use, the new ICD-10 system is. Most medical practices will have implemented training in this new way of billing and coding by now.
How is the ICD-10 System Different from the Old ICD-9?
There are several important differences between the ICD-10 and the old ICD-9. The change in the number of codes is just the beginning. The codes change all the time, so that should be no problem for anyone who is a professional in the field or who is learning the industry right now. The main thing is that the structure between the ICD-9 and the ICD-10 is completely different.
Medical billing and coding specialists who have been in the business for a while will be used to the numeric nature of the ICD-9. This system uses three to five numbers to identify a particular billing code. The ICD-10 changes this. With the ICD-10, the codes will contain both letters and numbers in combinations of three to seven characters. This is supposed to allow for more descriptive coding. The ICD-10 also separates the codes into categories, which makes it easier for medical billing and coding specialists to find the information they need, and allows for more accurate billing.
The Bottom Line
The medical billing and coding industry is changing due to the new coding system, the introduction of electronic health records, and the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. However, it doesn’t have to be a drastic change or one that is difficult to learn and adapt to. In fact, many of the changes that are coming to the industry are designed to make it easier on the professionals who work in it and more accurate for patients and insurers alike.
The most important thing for medical billing and coding practices regarding electronic health records is that it helps improve efficiency and accuracy in billing. This, in turn, will improve the cash flow of any medical provider or service that adopts this way of doing business. Between the new coding system and the adoption of electronic health records, business cash flow and patient care will both be improved. This will make the industry a better one for everyone involved in it, including providers and patients alike.