Health Information Management

When all else fails, read the directions

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 17, 2015

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The absolute best ICD-10 education is completely free, assuming you have an Internet connection. It will tell you everything you need to know about coding in ICD-10.

What is this magical, mystical resource, you ask? And how can I get it?

It’s the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting (CM and PCS have their own). Yep, I’m talking about the instruction manual. And okay, the official guidelines won’t tell you everything. But they are a great place to start.

Several years ago, I attended a conference session on tough ICD-9-CM coding challenges. One of the very first things the speaker said was read, learn, and love the guidelines. True in ICD-9-CM, true in ICD-10-CM, and true in ICD-10-PCS. I can tell when people have read the directions by the questions they ask. Sometimes, the answers are clearly spelled out in the guidelines. Other times, I need to look in Coding Clinic, or reach out to one of our Boot Camp instructors for help. They know when I haven’t checked the guidelines, but they are very nice about pointing out where to look in the guidelines.

If you haven’t already done so, download the guidelines from either CMS or the CDC. You can also download the actual codes and indexes. I also recommend downloading the ICD-10-PCS Reference Manual. It’s very helpful and helpfully free.

Once you download the guidelines, you do need to read them. They will not magically appear in your brain, even if you sleep with the book beneath your pillow. I tried that. Thankfully the majority of guidelines (and conventions) remain the same in ICD-10-CM. So if you know and love your ICD-9-CM guidelines, learning the ICD-10-CM ones will be easy.

The news isn’t as nice for ICD-10-PCS. Inpatient coders and CDI specialists are starting from scratch here. So it’s even more important to Read The Guidelines! And the reference manual. And Coding Clinic. But read the guidelines first. The other two will make more sense if you do. If you have questions (and you probably will), ask—ask a colleague, ask your boss, ask Coding Clinic, in some cases, use the JustCoding Facebook page to ask everyone online, search the JustCoding archives. You may even need to ask a physician.

You’ve got 52 calendar days (32 working days) before we embark on ICD-10 for real. Use your time wisely. Put off your training a little too long and need some hard-core coding education? Check out our coding boot camps, available live and online!

This article originally appeared on HCPro’s ICD-10 Trainer blog.

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