As we’ve suggested in previous posts, one of the best ways to ensure your practice covers all of its ICD-10 prep work bases is to audit your processes and workflows. By doing so, you’ll identify all the ways you and your staff currently use and interact with ICD-9 codes. If you’ve done that, you’ve no doubt pinpointed one of the largest—and most obvious—ICD-9 touchpoints: your claims. Then, you probably asked yourself (or the almighty Google), “How will ICD-10 change the way I complete and submit claims for my services?” And now, here you are, on a blog post that’s going to answer that very question. (It’s like magic, right? I mean, what did we ever do without the Internet?) Here’s what you need to know about ICD-10 and your claims:

Billing - Regular BannerBilling - Small Banner

1. The current 1500 claim forms already accommodate ICD-10.

As this article explains, the most recent update to the 1500 form accounted for the transition to ICD-10. The new form—well, new-ish (the update happened a couple of years ago)—allows for the inclusion of up to 12 diagnosis codes. While you might not be hitting that maximum with ICD-9, you very well could use all of your allotted coding space with ICD-10, as many patient cases will require multiple codes to express the patient’s diagnosis in the most complete, accurate, specific way possible. This is especially true in cases involving external causes, as you can submit as many external cause codes as necessary to fully describe the patient’s situation.

2. You will still use CPT codes to denote services rendered.

While ICD-10 does include a separate set of procedure codes, healthcare professionals who currently use CPT codes for billing purposes will not use ICD-10 procedure codes. If you fall into this category, you will continue using CPT codes (e.g., 97161, 97110, and 97140) the same way you do now. However, keep in mind that you will need to update your superbills—if you use them—to include ICD-10 codes. This process is easier said than done, as there could be dozens—or even hundreds—of possible ICD-10 equivalents for a single ICD-9 code. (For step-by-step instructions on how to convert ICD-9 codes to ICD-10, check out this blog post or this video tutorial.) One last note: ICD-10 will not impact the way you currently use any CPT-related modifiers, including modifier 59 and the KX modifier.

3. You can list up to four diagnosis pointers per service line.

While you can include up to 12 diagnosis codes on a single claim form, only four of those diagnosis codes can map to a specific CPT code. That’s because the current 1500 form allows space for up to four diagnosis pointers per line, and that won’t change with the transition to ICD-10. So, why even list diagnosis codes that you’re not going to link to any of your service lines? This article answers that question using the following example: “For a service that is somewhat generic like an office visit, the patient may have come in because they had the flu, but ended up getting a full evaluation that showed a previous lower leg amputation and perhaps diabetes management. While the office visit did not address the leg specifically, capturing the diagnosis is still very important.” Furthermore, even though you can only officially point four diagnoses to any one service, if the other diagnoses “are relevant to the treatment, they are still available to the examiner at the insurance company who is doing the adjudication—they just are not specifically pointed to.”

Everything PTs, OTs, and SLPs need to know about ICD-10—in one comprehensive guide. Download your copy now.

4. If you include multiple diagnosis codes on a single claim, you should order them according to significance.

To reiterate the point I made above, with ICD-10, there will be a lot of instances in which you will submit multiple codes on a single claim. When this happens, it’s crucial that you list the codes according to importance, with the first-listed (i.e., primary) code being the one that most strongly supports the medical necessity of your services. In many cases, that means coding for causation first and foremost. For more on coding for medical necessity, check out this blog post.

5. There’s no minimum number of ICD-10 codes you must include on each claim.

Even though there’s a good chance you’ll list multiple codes on a single claim, keep in mind that there’s no requirement to submit multiple codes. Obviously, you’ll need at least one diagnosis code for the claim to process correctly, but if that one code provides all the information necessary to describe the patient’s condition as fully and specifically as possible, then it’s 100% acceptable to submit that code, and that code only.

6. ICD-9 codes and ICD-10 codes can never appear together on the same claim.

The transition to ICD-10 will go by date of service. That means all claims with dates of service on or before September 30 must contain only ICD-9 codes, whereas all claims with dates of service on or after October 1 must contain only ICD-10. Mixing the two code sets could be a recipe for disaster in the form of claim denials. So, if you need to submit a claim for dates of service that span the transition, you’ll need to split the claim to submit the ICD-9 codes and ICD-10 codes separately. Just be sure to check with your payers regarding their claim-splitting requirements.

All of that being said, you shouldn’t throw all of your ICD-9 knowledge out the window come October 1, because a handful of nontraditional, non-HIPAA-covered payers—including auto insurance and workers’ compensation carriers—are exempt from the transition mandate. And even though they are being strongly encouraged to make the switch anyway, some will definitely stick with ICD-9—at least for now. So, you’ll need to continue using ICD-9 codes on claims submitted to those payers. Furthermore, as Lauren Milligan explains in this blog post, “Sometimes, you’ll see patients whose primary and secondary insurances require different code sets. In these cases, because you should include only ICD-9 codes on claims for payers who did not make the switch to ICD-10, you’ll need to split the claim and send each piece to the appropriate payer.”

7. To be safe, you should get all caught up with claim submissions before October 1.

Because the transition is based on date of service, payers theoretically should be equipped to handle claims containing ICD-9 codes—even when those claims are submitted after October 1. However, in the event that the payers are not adequately equipped to handle that distinction, you may experience delays in payment or have to deal with appeals or claim resubmission. That's why we're encouraging everyone to get all caught up with their billing—or as caught up as possible—prior to October 1. (For more advice on how to approach the hours leading up to, and immediately following, the transition, check out this blog post.)


At the end of the day (specifically, the day of September 30), not much will change with respect to your actual claims and the way you complete and submit them. The real change will occur behind the scenes as you adjust your coding mindset to align with ICD-10’s call for greater accuracy, completeness, and specificity. Have claims questions? Enter them in the comment section below, and I’ll get you an answer.

  • A Farewell Ode to ICD-9 Image

    articleSep 30, 2015 | 2 min. read

    A Farewell Ode to ICD-9

    As the hours count down It’s hard to believe That we’ve finally made it To ICD-10 Eve Our journey to get here Hasn’t been without strife As the US has clung To ICD-9 for dear life Letting go can be hard And change can be tough But in the modern medical world ICD-9 just isn’t enough Unlike a fine wine That gets better with time ICD-9 has aged poorly— It’s way past its prime Sure, we’ll always …

  • One ICD-10 FAQ to Rule Them All Image

    downloadNov 25, 2015

    One ICD-10 FAQ to Rule Them All

    The transition to ICD-10 was an unexpected journey for many healthcare providers—and making the switch was no easy quest. That’s why we traveled far over the Misty Mountains cold—and to dungeons deep and caverns old—to gather the answers to your most frequently asked ICD-10 questions.   Now, it’s time to head to the Shire, eat second breakfast, and make your coding concerns disappear. To go there (and back again), download the One ICD-10 FAQ to Rule Them …

  • The Final 48: Your Guide to ICD-10 Transition Day Image

    articleAug 31, 2015 | 5 min. read

    The Final 48: Your Guide to ICD-10 Transition Day

    For law enforcement officials, the 48 hours immediately following a crime are the most crucial. Why? Because if they haven’t found any leads, identified any suspects, or made any arrests by the time the two-day clock expires, their chances of cracking the case—and, in some cases, saving lives—dwindle significantly. And while ICD-10 isn’t exactly a life-or-death situation, those HIPAA-covered providers making the switch will be up against a similar make-it-or-break-it timeframe. The only difference—besides the whole crime …

  • The Complete PT Billing FAQ Image

    articleMay 24, 2016 | 25 min. read

    The Complete PT Billing FAQ

    Over the years, WebPT has a hosted a slew of billing webinars and published dozens of billing-related blog posts. And in that time, we’ve received our fair share of tricky questions. Now, in an effort to satisfy your curiosity, we’ve compiled all of our most common brain-busters into one epic FAQ. Don’t see your question? Ask it in the comments below. Questions related to: • WebPT • Modifier 59 • Other Modifiers • Coding • ICD-10 • …

  • In a Multiple-Code State of Mind: Why One ICD-10 Code Might Not be Enough Image

    articleSep 17, 2015 | 6 min. read

    In a Multiple-Code State of Mind: Why One ICD-10 Code Might Not be Enough

    You’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The same logic applies to ICD-10 coding—albeit in a less extreme manner. While you probably won’t need a thousand ICD-10 codes to paint a complete picture of a patient’s diagnosis, there’s a good chance you’ll need more than one—and for many rehab therapists, that represents a huge departure from the coding status quo. With that in mind, here are a few tips for using a …

  • ICD-10 FAQ Part 4 Image

    articleNov 3, 2015 | 5 min. read

    ICD-10 FAQ Part 4

    Like the many Land Before Time sequels, the versions of our ICD-10 FAQ keep on-a-comin’. But—unlike those beloved dinosaur tales—I don’t anticipate 12 more versions (plus a TV series) will be necessary to cover what’s to come with ICD-10. Still, the questions continue to roll in—albeit a bit slower than they did a couple of months ago. However, most of the inquiries we’ve received in recent weeks have been super specific. That’s why, our most recent webinar—the …

  • ICD-10 FAQ Part Three Image

    articleOct 20, 2015 | 16 min. read

    ICD-10 FAQ Part Three

    In the movie world, threequels have a reputation for failing to match the glory of their predecessors (The Hangover Part III, anyone?). It’s almost like the writers know they’re out of material, but instead of knowing when to fold ’em, they continue to hold ’em—right up until the inevitable flop. But with ICD-10, the questions just keep getting better—which means the third and latest installment of our ICD-10 FAQ is even juicier than the last. So, grab …

  • 7 Scoops of 7th Character Sage Image

    articleAug 5, 2015 | 7 min. read

    7 Scoops of 7th Character Sage

    Seven dwarves; seven world wonders; 7-Up. These are all totally non-threatening—some might even say smile-inducing—associations with the number seven. ICD-10’s seventh character, on the other hand, has caused a lot of frowns—or, at the very least, furrowed brows—among those in the healthcare community. And that’s especially true for physical therapists. Here, I’ve compiled a list of seven seventh-character must-knows: 1. There’s no ICD-9 equivalent of the seventh character. ICD-9 caps its codes at five characters, meaning seventh …

  • What’s Your ICD-10 IQ? [Edit] Image

    articleAug 10, 2015 | 1 min. read

    What’s Your ICD-10 IQ? [Edit]

    For months, we’ve gone on and on about ICD-10 testing: testing your coding processes, testing your software, and testing with your payers. Now, with under two months to go before the transition date, it’s time to test one more very important factor: yourself. After all, no matter how sophisticated your systems and software are, critical thinking—and more importantly, clinical judgment—will make or break your ICD-10 success.   Think you’re an ICD-10 Einstein? Take our quiz to prove …

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