Should I Wait until ICD-10 Rolls out to Start Medical Billing/Coding Classes, or Should I Start Now?

Question: (From Susan)  I’m 65 and in good shape and want to continue working for a long while. I thought medical billing/coding would be good because age discrimination would be less likely. I have years of experience as a college graduate who worked for high-level attorneys, and I was detail-oriented and made very few mistakes. My question is — should I wait to start medical billing/coding classes until the new International Coding is in effect on October 2013, or should I start now at my local community college in January? Thanks for your assistance. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Hi Susan,

Happy holidays to you as well! Good question. Many coding and billing professionals choose this industry as a second career.  I think that if you are detail-oriented, have a good relationship with “science,” and enjoy being a bit of a detective, then it should be a good match for many.

With respect to starting now and getting certified before Oct. 1, 2014, I say take it now. It will be a lot easier to transition once you have ICD-9-CM down and then integrate ICD-10-CM as you go.

The differences from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM are fairly significant and encompass a broader specificity for assigning diagnosis codes, which ultimately leads to more accurate reporting from health care professionals and allows for improving care to patients.  The following is a short list of some of the core differences between the two:

Number of codes:

  • ICD-9 has just more than 14,000 diagnosis codes and almost 4,000 procedural codes.
  • In contrast, ICD-10 contains more than 68,000 diagnosis codes (clinical modification codes) and more than 72,000 procedural codes.
  • ICD-9 codes contain three to five digits beginning with either a number or a letter, with a decimal point placed after the third digit, and the ICD-9 book indicates the level of specificity for each code.
  • ICD-10 codes are all seven-character-long alphanumeric codes. The first three are similar to the ICD-9 code, but the additional codes add specificity to the code such as laterality, chronic versus acute, etc. If a specific “place” in the code isn’t to be used, a placeholder character (x) replaces it.

The following is a list of what I call “CPC Core Baselines,” or essentially, what a coding professional must know and maintain a repository of knowledge on to remain updated on industry changes for both ICD-9-CM and once we move into ICD-10-CM:

  • Accurate review and assignment of medical codes for diagnoses/procedures/services provided by health care professionals
  • Maintain proficiency on a broad range of CPT-4 and ICD-9-CM/ICD-10- CM codes and coding conventions on multiple specialties
  • Current working knowledge of regulatory compliance and reimbursement rules for multiple payers, including government
  • Effective handling of medical necessity inquiries/claims denials/bundling, unbundling issues
  • Proficiency in anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology for accurate code assignment

To assist students and coding professionals further with tackling the challenges of ICD-10, Codapedia, a free website built by industry professionals, offers free video sessions from Nancy Maguire, who is a well- respected author, speaker, and industry professional. To date, she has assembled 20 free videos on Codapedia’s site, and they address the following coding conventions for ICD-10:

  • Session 1: Nancy Maguire introduces the upcoming ICD-10 implementation
  • Session 2: How is ICD-10 Organized?
  • Session 3: The Ground Rules – Symbols, Conventions, and the Ground Rules
  • Session 4: Signs, symptoms, exams
  • Session 5: Neoplasm Table, Table of Drugs and Chemicals, External Cause Codes
  • Session 6: Chapter 1 of the Tabular List
  • Session 7: Chapter 2 of the Tabular List – Neoplasms
  • Session 8: Chapter 3
  • Session 9: Chapter 4 – Endocrine, Nutritional and Metabolic Disorders
  • Session 10: Chapter 5 – Mental and Behavioral Disorders
  • Session 11: Chapter 6 – Diseases of the Nervous System
  • Session 12: Chapter 7 – Diseases of the Eye and Adnexa
  • Session 13: Chapter 8 – Diseases of the Ear and Mastoid Process
  • Session 14: Chapter 9, Part One – Diseases of the Circulatory System
  • Session 15: Chapter 9, Part Two – Diseases of the Circulatory System
  • Session 16: Chapter 10 – Diseases of the Respiratory System
  • Session 17: Chapter 11 – Diseases of the Digestive System
  • Session 18: Chapter 12 – Diseases of the Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Session 19:  Chapter 13 – Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue
  • Session 20: Chapter 14, Part 1, Session 20 – Diseases of the Genitourinary Systems

Happy Coding!