As a new coding language is soon to become standard in the medical coding industry, the widespread changes in the format may cause a new drive toward medical coding outsourcing to save companies money, time and frustration.
Switching systems from ICD-9 formats to the new ICD-10 must be completed by October 1, 2014, as current coding systems will no longer be supported, according to Mondaq. These coding changes affect almost every level of the healthcare industry, including providers, patients and payers, meaning their effects will be far-reaching.
The ICD-9 coding system is quickly becoming outdated in the light of current medical practices, especially with the growing nature of medical device technology. ICD-10, a more detailed and intricate system, will assist systems with data analysis, claim processing and healthcare based on outcome, providing an important update to now-dated systems.
Differences between the two systems are staggering. While ICD-9 systems diagnosis codes can contain up to five characters, the updated systems can hold up to two more, which has wide-reaching effects; available codes for users will multiply more than five times, jumping from 13,000 to 68,000.
In-patient procedure codes have even more drastic changes. Supporting 24 times as many codes (72,000 compared to only 3,000), ICD-10 systems allow for more specific positions, meaning areas of healthcare as varied as medical surgery and mental health will be allowed separate defining factors.
Cost remains a key factor
If codes are not updated by the 2014 deadline, claims cannot be processed at all, which is a major roadblock for any organization. However, outsourcing coding systems can provide many benefits for companies willing to take action now to avoid running out of time, one of which is cost. Sending work outside of a company not only can save on the bottom line, avoiding the hiring of pricey coding teams, but it can make sure systems are ready well before the deadline.
As many other systems in healthcare also require attention, from updating technology as devices become more advanced to health care reform under the upcoming Affordable Care Act, outsourcing can save a company precious time, allowing teams to refocus their attention on more pressing matters.
As well, some may see the switching of coding systems to be as simple as updating software on a computer. This is not the case; it is an important, company-wide process for any healthcare provider, and by putting trust in an outside team, it will be less likely a process is forgotten or a step will be skipped.