Keep Calm and Code On: ICD-10 Roll Out

Two weeks into its young yet highly anticipated life the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, known as “ICD-10” seems to have had a smooth launch with no major reported crisis so far. Uncertainty was high considering reports that one in four doctor practices weren’t ready for the conversion to 140,000 new codes that they had to start using October 1 in order to bill government and private insurers.

UnitedHealth Group (UNH), the nation’s largest health insurer told Forbes that claims are being paid and call volumes from providers of medical care have been “normal.” Ross Lippincott, vice president of UnitedHealth’s regulatory implementation office, said the insurer has seen only a “slight uptick” in claim denials.

Thomas Marsland, MD, Oncologist says the ICD-10 transition has not affected him significantly as far as his day-to-day clinic goes, but there still seems to be some apprehension, “One area that has popped up is when adding antiemetics—they are requesting we add ICD-10 for the chemo-induced nausea and vomiting. Since we are only two weeks into this so far, we have not seen any billing issues but I continue to hold my breath on that one.”

SERMO, a social media network exclusively for doctors, asked members if the transition is taking their time away from patient care and the number overwhelmingly showed that it is. Out of the nearly 200 members who responded to the poll, 86% stated it has impacted patient care while 14% said it has not.

Others like Pediatrician, Dr. Terry Brenneman had an early positive experience with the new coding system, “ICD 10 has just one code for a ‘vaccine encounter’, replacing about 15 codes in ICD-9. With ICD-9, if an 11-year-old child got a flu vaccine, an HPV vaccine, a DTaP, and a meningococcal vaccine, 4 different ICD codes were needed. With ICD 10, there is only one:  Z23.”

Family Physician, Dr. Linda Girgis shared some of the glitches about the code set conversion with HealthCare IT News. While Girgis reported that some problems like excessive wait times for billers (up to 3 hours), not being able to complete referrals because the online referral system will not accept ICD-10 codes, and inability to check insurance eligibility due to insurance sites being down for several days “had been ironed out.”

The question most on the front lines are asking, “Will we be paid correctly and in a timely fashion?”

Girgis doesn’t anticipate being able to accurately answer that question until the first claims start being adjudicated — likely weeks from now. After two years of delays in the initial launch it appears ICD-10 is making everyone wait in anticipation, again.

What has been your experience so far with ICD-10? Let us know in the comments below.