Buckholtz said the AAPC will be working both with local chapters and at the national level to provide educational programs (See “Resources for Getting Your Practice Ready”). “We already have implementation boot camps available for early planning. As it gets closer to time, we will be offering specialized courses for coders and physicians,” she said.
Explore This IssueDecember 2011
She cautioned against starting training too early. Training that begins more than six to nine months before the new codes are used will likely be forgotten by the time it is needed. There is also little need to spend time working with codes until October 2012.
“A lot of things have to come together to make this work,” said Tennant. “It is a challenging cascade for the organization, starting from the education of administrative staff through upgrading or replacing practice management and billing system software, up to the training of physicians themselves.”
Working with Vendors
Major changes will also be needed in your practice management systems, billing software and even your EMR. In some cases, the practice may simply need to update its current systems. Other practices may need to buy new programs and update hardware.
Practices should start by talking to their computer system vendors. Their schedules for updating programs will be one of the main variables. Find out from your vendor when your current systems will be upgraded or replaced to handle the new codes and workflow processes.
For some, upgrades may be included as part of system maintenance. Those who find that their current version can’t be upgraded will have to buy a new software suite.
The new year brings the implementation of Version 5010, a protocol making the changes that will allow computers to talk to each other using the larger ICD-10 codes. Despite CMS requirements, some Medicaid programs have announced that they will not be ready by the January 1, 2012 target date. In early November, CMS announced that it would not initiate enforcement action for non-compliance with the 5010 standards until March 31, 2012. With some groups missing this first major deadline, there are bound to be stragglers when ICD-10 starts.
Even if CMS and all plans actually change their systems on time, ICD-9 will not be going away any time soon. It will still be used for patients seen on or before September 30, 2013, even if billed afterwards. ICD-9 will continue to be the standard for workers compensation and disability claims.