Rule Change Prompts Need for Medical Coders

  • Article by: NANCY CROTTI , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: March 4, 2011 - 9:08 AM

Health care organizations are gearing up for a revolution in the way medical procedures are classified. The federal government will require them to begin using a new and much more precise medical coding system in October 2013, and preparations are already underway.

It's not often we hear of a need for more health care workers these days, but federal regulations that will change the way medical procedures are classified will undoubtedly produce a need for more medical coders.

Health care systems and colleges across the country have been preparing since 2009 for the advent of ICD-10 - a much more complicated coding system than what has been in use for the past 30 years (ICD-9) - to not only track medical procedures but determine how much is paid for them. The new system is scheduled to go live on Oct. 1, 2013 and will affect not only coders, who work in hospitals clinics and for insurers, but many other health care workers.

Enroll soon to be ready
Those considering a two-year degree in health information management (which includes coding) should enroll this fall in order to graduate with the knowledge necessary to pass the licensing examination for ICD-10. Current coders and many others working in health care will have opportunities to learn the new system online, at work or from local colleges, according to area experts.

ICD-10-CM is an alphanumeric diagnostic coding system that will be used in outpatient settings. To more precisely ascribe a value and definition to each procedure, it will contain 68,065 codes, compared with the 14,025 codes currently in use in outpatient settings, according to the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org), which is helping educators and health care systems prepare for the changes. ICD-10-PCS, the classification system for inpatient hospital procedures, will have 72,589 procedures codes, compared to 3,824 in ICD-9-CM.

Colleges, health care systems prepare
"In 2012 we will have a separate ICD-10 class so the students will know both ICD-9 and ICD-10 by the time they graduate," said Georgina Sampson, program director for health information technology and medical coding at Anoka Technical College (www.anokatech.edu). "Most employers I have spoken to said that about three to six months before Oct. 1, 2013, they will train their coders."

Anoka Tech offers a medical coding certificate as well as an associate's degree in health information management. For a complete list of accredited colleges that offer medical coding, go to www.ahima.org.

Like other health care systems in the Twin Cities, HealthEast has begun gearing up for the switch to ICD-10. Rennae Glidden, director of data services for HealthEast hospitals, said the organization will need to train employees in finance, quality management and insurance verification as well as coders.

"There are a lot of people in the hospital who do not assign the codes but need to have a familiarity to know how to pull out the data," Glidden said. "Everybody will be affected by it."
 

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