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Why Should Records Managers Care About ICD-10?

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Though long delayed, it appears that the final deadline for healthcare organizations to switch to the ICD-10 coding system will remain on October 1st, 2015. Less than two months out, what does that mean for staff involved in records management?

Hopefully your network has been working on the transition well in advance, but changing legacy systems to the new way of doing things can be difficult. ICD-10 offers more than 70,000 potential choices for coding diagnoses and causes of medical conditions, compared to about 17,000 in ICD-9; resulting in a far more complex information environment. Older medical records need to be retroactively converted to these new standards for continuity of care and consistency in records keeping, leaving many practices facing uncertainty about their options. Here are a few ways that records managers are handling the transition:

Digitization

By far one of the more obvious solutions, most healthcare providers already have electronic medical records (EMR) systems in place. Modern software suites have been built with the upcoming switch in mind, and most are promising a painless transition to the new coding by automatically altering all information within their programs. While this requires human auditing to double check for accuracy, it also means that records need to exist in completely digital formats. If your office is still using physical patient files (especially for archival purposes) it pays to start a document imaging project now in order to have them ready in time for the final deadline. Instead of staff having to spend large amounts of time digging through old information to convert it, let computers handle the bulk of the work by scanning files into easily transferable electronic formats.

Shredding

At some point during your evaluation, it may be discovered that there are medical records within the network that you aren’t legally required to maintain. With recent regulatory changes, this is far less common, but large archives can have unnoticed redundancies. In this situation, the best option might be to simply shred the files and not bother transitioning them at all. Large scale purge projects are a simple solution, as vendors scale up collection efforts for any size facility. This process will ensure compliance with the new guidelines while reducing the overall amount of paperwork in your possession as an added bonus.

Education

The best preparation is education, and this is no exception. With ICD-9 being the standard for over 35 years, the government has a vested interest in helping members of the medical community switch to a more modern and accurate form of sharing information. There are many official guides and websites available online that can help with the learning process, and records managers should take the time to learn additional details so that they can be an essential resource of information for other staff members.

While there’s no magical solution that can make the upcoming move an easy process, with preparation and adaptation records managers can help streamline changes to minimize disruption as much as possible. The Data Vault has been providing healthcare practices with customized information management solutions for over 30 years, and stand ready to help with projects of any size. Our team of experts is prepared to answer any questions that you may have, contact us today and one of them will be in touch!

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