6 Steps Home Health Care Coding Agencies Need To Take To Prepare For ICD-1

It’s already April – which means that the clock is ticking ever closer to the looming ICD-10 implementation date on October 1st.  Hopefully, you’ve been tracking this event for some time and have already completed your GAP analysis and put an ICD-10 team in place – not to mention conducted a comprehensive audit of your agency.  But there is still much to be done – including updating training for clinicians and coders, upgrading computer systems to help with dual coding and hiring extra personnel to help with the transition period.

Here are six steps home health care coding agencies need to take to prepare for the upcoming ICD-10 transition sooner rather than later – because it’s almost upon us!

  1. Get coordinated with your departments and vendors.  If you handle billing, IT and finance in-house – or if you’re still using paper forms – it’s time to start coordinating your departments on your plans for the ICD-10 transition.  If you contract with a billing service, software developer, practice management specialist or clearinghouse, get in contact with them as soon as possible to learn their strategy for handling the implementation.  The more communication and coordination you can build with everyone involved in your practice, the better.
  2. Download the OASIS C-1 data set.  OASIS is now updated to handle ICD-10 diagnosis codes and this update also has some minor changes.  If you haven’t already, head over to the CMS web site to find more information and to download the new data set.
  3. Make a plan that includes a realistic timeline and budget.  You should already have known for some time that you would need extra resources to implement ICD-10 within your home health care coding operation.  Not only do you need to bring your organization up to speed, you will need a lot of time and money to pay for extra employee education.
  4. Ensure that your clinicians are up-to-date on knowledge of pharmacology, physiology, medical terminology and anatomy.  There are a host of new requirements that come along with ICD-10, and your clinicians will need to have fully updated information on all of the aforementioned subjects before they can even start to learn the complicated new code set.
  5. Get everyone comfortable with ICD-10 as early as possible.  If you don’t already own an ICD-10 manual, you’re behind the curve.  Your coders will need extra training – the American Health Information Management Association estimates each employee will require sixteen hours just on coding and ten hours to practice the new codes.  If you haven’t already, earmark time and money for the extra employee education, and don’t forget that you’ll need to schedule coding coverage while your workers are in the classroom.
  6. Perform comprehensive software testing.  Everything from EHR to billing to coding needs to be tested extensively before October 1st.  You should have an IT professional dedicated solely to this task to ensure that you are fully ready for the transition within the budgetary and organizational limits that home health care coding agencies often face.

With all of this coming on the heels of the unprecedented complexity and sheer volume of changes mandated in the Affordable Care Act, preparing for this massive new code set can seem overwhelming.  Add that to the fact that CMS estimates that one in ten claims submitted in the first three months will be rejected solely on the basis of coding errors and things start to look even scarier.

Luckily, you’re not alone.  It may seem impossible, but there is help available for health care coding organizations trying to make the transition before the deadline.  Many agencies are offering some form of assistance, but to ensure you are fully prepared, make sure you contract with a company that will not only help you establish and implement a comprehensive ICD-10 strategy, but will parallel code along with your team months before the deadline so that you have adequate training and transition time.

With the right software, consultation and contractor experience, you can be fully compliant by October 1st – but you’d better get started soon.  There isn’t a moment to lose!

Gabe Coeli has been learning to code over the past few years and has six steps for home health care coders.