Once officially completely implemented, the ICD-10 transition will provide infinitely more descriptive codes for use in the realm of medical documentation, to both more accurately document ailments, treatments, and the like, as well as more easily allow for interoperability.
For years, critics have opposed ICD-10 in part out of fears of lost productivity—and few deny that this is a valid concern. Many point to Canada’s often-cited 67% drop in productivity when the country transitioned to ICD-10.
The lack of familiarity will come as a shock to many, says Selva. “If memorized codes were something someone was leaning on, this will cut their productivity… the biggest change will be when coders are reviewing physician notes.”
There is a concern shared by many that the level of specificity—and the sheer volume of codes—will prevent clinicians and coders from memorizing codes. “It will become much more complicated. There is a lot of fear right now regarding specificity. No one wants to be interrupted [to look something up] over and over again.”
There’s no easy solution for this one. The general consensus is that some loss of productivity is inevitable. “I think they’ll be slower,” says Draak.
But Buckholtz is more optimistic. “What we’ve seen from the coder standpoint is that after being trained for 40 to 80 hours, they do go back to old level of productivity,” she says. She points out that coders will no longer have to do dual coding, which should be a relief to many departments.
Time and practice will help clinicians and coders memorize codes they use frequently, and EHR/EMR systems that auto-populate codes will also help. Now, however, might be a good time for hospital leadership to evaluate staffing levels.
Emory’s Plummer suggests pairing struggling physicians with practices coders to help them adjust to the new system. “If coders are available to work with them, that’s the best thing—tell them, ‘don’t ask another physician, they probably don’t know any more than you do.'”
Perhaps most importantly, very few experts believe patient care will be impacted by the move to ICD-10. “I can rest assured that at our facility, patient care is our chief concern. We’ll do everything around that as our focus. Our quality won’t go down,” says Draak.
Most organizations have done their homework and have spent many resources training employees and preparing, and most of them can expect a fairly smooth transition, says Gordon. “I think people are ready.”