A Physician’s Take on ICD-10

September 15, 2015  |  Category: PhysiciansRegulatory Updates

Physicians routinely work with a lot of advanced technology. If that technology helps them provide better care for their patients, most physicians embrace it; but they want to be well trained so that they feel “unconsciously competent” in its use.

ICD-10 is analogous. As we discussed on a PatientKeeper webinar last week, there are many arguments to be made in favor of ICD-10: that it will generate data to better compare public health trends to guide public health policy; that it will enable practices to tailor disease management programs to specific populations; and that it will drive quality improvement at provider organizations. But in fact ICD-10 will not directly and immediately enable a physician to provide better care to the patient in the exam room at that moment. And many physicians are anxious about it because they don’t yet feel unconsciously competent using the new, more specific codes.

However, like it or not, ICD-10 is a mandate. Physicians have to use it; they have no choice, and they know it.

The good news is, while the number and specificity of codes in ICD-10 may appear daunting, in reality ICD-10 imposes no different process than what physicians currently are used to. Capturing and communicating what’s happening with the patient has been and will remain paramount, so documentation is the key; accurate billing will flow from accurate documentation. And as for identifying correct ICD-10 diagnosis codes, physicians should simply focus on WHAT and WHERE to get to the right ballpark, then refine the entry as needed.

The bottom line, in the words of the chief of staff at the University of Michigan Health System (quoted this week in the New York Times), is this: “ICD-10 [offers physicians] no obvious short-term payoff. But in the long run, we should gain a better understanding of illnesses and injuries and how to treat them.”