If you haven’t heard of ICD-10 by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Though CMS has talked about the impending implementation of ICD-10 like a boy crying “Wolf!,” the days of false alarms are over—at least that’s what the experts are saying. That’s right: it’s finally happening, folks. And the mandatory transition to the new diagnosis code set will be here before we know it (even if it is 20 years late). Let’s take a short break from your preparations for the switch to ICD-10 to review how we got here and how we can learn from those who’ve “been there, done that.” While this history lesson won’t be nearly as entertaining as an episode of Drunk History, it will give you a better understanding of our long—but necessary—road to ICD-10 (feel free to have a drink anyway).

9 Most Common Medicare Misconceptions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs - Regular Banner9 Most Common Medicare Misconceptions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs - Small Banner

Boy Meets World Health Organization

It all started with WHO (sadly, not this one). I’m talking about the World Health Organization, the public health sector of the United Nations, which is responsible for the development of International Classification of Diseases code sets, including the outdated and limited ICD-9 and its updated, more comprehensive successor, ICD-10. The WHO began developing the new and improved code set all the way back in 1983, but it didn’t get the final seal of approval until many years later.

The 43rd WHO assembly finally endorsed ICD-10 in May 1990, and the WHO released the full ICD-10 code set in 1994, just one year after Boy Meets World hit the airwaves. Remember that show? It’s been more than 20 years since Cory and Topanga first met. Now those love birds have a daughter in seventh grade, and the WHO is preparing to release ICD-11 in 2017—and the US still hasn’t adopted ICD-10.

However, many other countries did adopt from the ICD-10 cabbage patch—and in a much more timely fashion. According to a CMS ICD-10 overview presentation, 99 countries currently use ICD-10 to report morbidity, including all of the United Kingdom (1995), France (1997), Australia (1998), Germany (2000), and our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada (2001). Currently, the US only uses ICD-10 to report mortality on death certificates. Needless to say, we’re behind the times.

But that’s not all bad news. Our habit of procrastination also has given us the opportunity to learn from what other countries have experienced during their own transitions to ICD-10.

Toto, We’re Not in Kansas, Anymore

For example, Australia—one of the earlier adopters—is an excellent role model for the US to follow as we prepare for the switch. According to an article from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the Australian National Centre for Classification in Health (NCCH), which “planned the transition [and] conducted code review,” valued training so greatly that it formed an Education Working Party to conduct coder education. It spent years preparing clinical coders for the new code set: “Between 1995 and 1999, the NCCH prepared education material and ran 81 courses during 130 days for 2,423 participants in all states of Australia and New Zealand.”

Not only did the NCCH offer workshops involving “‘train the trainer’ sessions, face-to-face workshops with clinical coders, and workshops for all users of the classification,” but it also conducted a survey to determine where coders needed more education and then offered “a series of 13 Post-Implementation Workshops” to help “clarify particular issues raised in the surveys and through the NCCH query process.”

After all those years of education and re-education, the NCCH found that its coders needed at least “12 weeks to learn the codes and six months for them to get comfortable with ICD-10.” With that level of training, coders were able to get back to normal productivity levels just “four to six months after implementation.” Moreover, the same AHIMA article indicates that the NCCH’s commitment to education was matched by its clinical coders’ eagerness to learn and willingness to adapt its systems and technology, which played a huge role in Australia’s success.  

Other countries had less successful implementations—like Canada, whose lack of education, early involvement, and technical readiness (among other issues) resulted in an uncomfortable and costly implementation process that lowered productivity—permanently.

So, what’s a clinic to do?

Batter Up

Now that it’s our turn to take a swing at ICD-10, we’d be wise to follow Australia’s game plan. As a provider, that means you should model your own plan—assuming you have one, which you should—after that formula for success, making adjustments as necessary. Given Australia’s experience, you should allow your staff no fewer than six months to truly understand ICD-10—to the point that they could train new members of your staff, if need be.

We’re just over seven months away from October 1, 2015, so it’s in your best interest to start educating yourself and your staff as soon as possible—and not just on the new code set. To improve your chances for a smooth transition, be sure your staff is comfortable with technology, too—and that you’re using the right software for the job. To get ahead of the ICD-10 curveball, take a cue from the land down under. With proper planning, education, and software, you and your clinic will be ready to swing for the fences come October.

  • 50 Shades of ICD-10 Image

    articleFeb 19, 2015 | 5 min. read

    50 Shades of ICD-10

    While ICD-10 may not make you hot, it probably gets you pretty bothered. Finding an ICD-10 code that’s a perfect match for a particular ICD-9 code is like trying to find a shade of paint that’s the exact same color as your new gray throw pillows. You might assume you can simply tell your friendly hardware store associate you’d like a can of gray paint for your living room, and boom—all done. Easy peasy. But when you …

  • The Ultimate ICD-10 FAQ: Part Deux Image

    articleSep 24, 2015 | 16 min. read

    The Ultimate ICD-10 FAQ: Part Deux

    Just when we thought we’d gotten every ICD-10 question under the sun, we got, well, more questions. Like, a lot more. But, we take that as a good sign, because like a scrappy reporter trying to get to the bottom of a big story, our audience of blog readers and webinar attendees aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions—which means they’re serious about preparing themselves for the changes ahead. And we’re equally serious about providing them with …

  • On a Scale of 1 to ICD-10, how Prepared are You? Image

    articleFeb 2, 2015 | 5 min. read

    On a Scale of 1 to ICD-10, how Prepared are You?

    Like yet another season of Survivor , ICD-10 is inevitable, and while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) won’t drop you on a remote, hostile island when the ICD-10 switch happens, the new coding terrain may be just as unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and treacherous—unless you’re ready. Here’s how to win at ICD-10 (no shelter-building or fire-making required). Hit the Books Switching from a code set with roughly 13,000 codes to one with about 68,000 codes is …

  • Common Questions from Our PT Billing Open Forum Image

    articleAug 18, 2018 | 34 min. read

    Common Questions from Our PT Billing Open Forum

    Last week, WebPT’s trio of billing experts—Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, WebPT President and Co-founder; John Wallace, PT, MS, WebPT Chief Business Development Officer of Revenue Cycle Management; and Dianne Jewell, PT, DPT, PhD, WebPT Director of Clinical Practice, Outcomes, and Education—hosted a live open forum on physical therapy billing . Before the webinar, we challenged registrants to serve up their trickiest PT billing head-scratchers—and boy, did they deliver! We received literally hundreds of questions on …

  • Last Legs: The Compliance Vulnerabilities of Dead or Dying Software Image

    articleOct 24, 2016 | 5 min. read

    Last Legs: The Compliance Vulnerabilities of Dead or Dying Software

    Rusty mechanical equipment. Creaky carnival rides. Wobbly chairs. People are naturally skeptical of things that are dilapidated, rundown, or slipshod—and with good reason. After all, that which is ramshackle usually isn’t reliable. Now, imagine it’s the physical therapy software you use everyday to run your rehab therapy practice that’s gone derelict. Take PTOS EMR, for example , because if you didn’t know, this therapy office software is going out of business, and it has ceased all updates …

  • ICD-10 Open Forum Image

    webinarOct 5, 2015

    ICD-10 Open Forum

    On October 1, the US officially said RIP to ICD-9 and brought ICD-10 to life. For some of you, the transition might’ve been all sugar and spice—a real treat. But for many others, the switch to the new code set might’ve left you feeling overwhelmed, tricked, or even a bit scared. At the very least, you might be haunted by some lingering questions. That’s where we can help. We’ve brewed a cauldron filled to the brim with …

  • Dawn of the ICD-10: Life in the Post-Transition World Image

    articleOct 28, 2015 | 5 min. read

    Dawn of the ICD-10: Life in the Post-Transition World

    Some of you might remember all of the hype around Y2K. Rumors and speculation were abuzz, and there were people who thought all hell was going to break loose when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000. And then—dun, dun, dun—nothing happened. The Hyperbolic Hype The lead-up to October 1 was similar in many respects, albeit on a much smaller scale. People all over the healthcare community were freaking out about the unknown; some large practices …

  • How ICD-10 Will Benefit Your Practice Image

    articleApr 15, 2014 | 2 min. read

    How ICD-10 Will Benefit Your Practice

    So, the transition to ICD-10 is going to require that providers complete some prep work—that is, if said providers want a successful transition. But it’s not all bad news. Come the mandatory transition date, there will be some pretty sweet benefits: “From proper observation and documentation to improved clinical documentation, progress notes, operative reports, and histories, the benefits of ICD-10 begin with enhanced clinical documentation enabling [providers] to better capture patient visit details and lead to better …

  • ICD-10 Crash Course: Last-Minute Training for PTs, OTs, and SLPs Image

    webinarSep 2, 2015

    ICD-10 Crash Course: Last-Minute Training for PTs, OTs, and SLPs

    It’s officially here: the last month before all HIPAA-eligible professionals must switch to the ICD-10 code set. As the regret of procrastination washes over many of those professionals, they’re scrambling to ready themselves and their practices for the big switch. If you, like so many other rehab therapists, find yourself asking, “ICD-what?” then you’re in dire need of straightforward training—stat! Otherwise, you could leave your practice vulnerable to claim denials after October 1. Join us at 9:00 …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.