Hospital implements new coding system

9/18/2015

Every hospital uses the coding system issued by CMS (Centers for Medicate and Medicaid Services). Come October 1, 2015, these codes, called ICD codes, are undergoing a major change, and Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital is poised for this transition that will touch all patients and many staff.

The International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, is used to standardize codes for medical conditions and procedures, and allows the world to compare and share health information using a common language. The medical codes America uses for diagnosis and billing have not been updated in more than 35 years and contain outdated, obsolete terms with codes unable to reflect the use of new equipment. Laser and laparoscopic surgeries were not performed at the time ICD-9 was implemented, for example, but today the technology is common. New procedures and technology are often classified to a single code developed for older procedures or lumped into an “other” category.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the public health sector of the United Nations, which focuses on international health and outbreaks, began work on the tenth edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) coding system nearly 30 years ago in 1983. What started in the age of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Return of the Jedi didn’t actually finish until 1992.

Australia jumped on the adoption bandwagon pretty quickly. Half of their states implemented ICD-10 in 1998 and the remainder followed in 1999. Canada quickly followed suit in 2000. From there, many other European countries as well as Thailand, Korea, China, and South Africa all adopted ICD-10 either in its original, modified, or translated form. Even Dubai hopped aboard the ICD-10 train in 2012.

When the new coding is implemented, the diagnosis codes will not only have a different number of digits, but there will be many more of them—68,000 compared to 14,000. Likewise, procedure codes have jumped from 4,000 to 72,000, and physicians work load will increase with this national coding change.

Missy Sutton, SGCMH Quality director, explained that ICD‐10 codes are designed to provide better data to improve management of patient care.

“The transition is necessary, because the current coding system can’t take healthcare into the future, she said. “Transitioning the coding process is a huge project. The description of your services and illness will become much more specific and detailed when reported to your insurance. Physicians, receptionists, admitting and billing staff will have to ask more questions during each of your visits to be effective with these more specific and detailed codes. We ask that our patients have patience as we acclimate to these new government coding regulations.”

If you have questions concerning the ICD-10 implementation, Sutton invites you to call her at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital at 573-883-4430.

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