Primary care physicians, by and large, have viewed the deadline for implementation of the ICD-10 code set with trepidation. That goes for family physicians, too, according to an AAFP survey conducted in late 2014. But now, less than one year later, many more report they are prepared, according to new survey results.
That's good news, given that as of today, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers will no longer accept billing without ICD-10 codes.
Granted, there's cause to be nervous. ICD-10 represents a major change in billing procedure. The new code set contains more than 68,000 codes compared with just 13,000 for ICD-9.
Many practices have made significant changes this year to be ready for the Oct. 1 start date, according to a September 2015 AAFP Member Insight Exchange survey. Their responses contrasted sharply with members' assessment of their readiness when they were asked about the issue for the 2014 Practice Profile survey that was published in December.
Clearly, the passage of time has assuaged some of the initial fears physicians had about the change. Many practices said in the latest survey that they were preparing for the transition either via testing or by providing increased training for staff.
Thirty-five percent of respondents in the latest survey said they had a plan to be ready for implementation, a substantial increase from 19 percent in 2014. A higher percentage of practices had scheduled training for staff, the recent survey found, with that figure rising from 25 percent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2015. And the percentage of practices that reported scheduling testing inside the practice with CMS or with private insurers more than doubled, jumping from 10 percent to 21 percent.
At the same time, the proportion of practices that reported not making preparations to be ready for the ICD-10 switchover declined from 2014 to 2015. Last year, 14 percent of practices said they had not taken measures to be ready. That's compared to only 5 percent that said they had not taken such steps in the 2015 survey.
Furthermore, the number of practices that thought they would need more time to adjust to demands associated with ICD-10 declined substantially, according to the survey. The number of physicians who were hoping for a delay in implementation dropped from 18 percent to 9 percent.
The latest survey also showed levels of anxiety have dipped. The percentage of physicians who said they had contacted their electronic health record vendor but were not confident the transition would be handled smoothly dropped from 29 percent in 2014 to 24 percent in 2015.
The age of survey respondents was evenly divided, with 54 percent of them having completed their residency more than 15 years ago. Nearly one-third of respondents were either the sole owner or a partial owner of their practice.
CMS has already announced that during a one-year grace period, CMS will not deny claims based on which code is selected as long as the selection is from an appropriate range of ICD-10 codes. Practices that participate in incentive programs will not be penalized for coding missteps during the grace period.
CMS has indicated it will work with practices that are still adapting to the changes, but it will not accept claims that use both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes.
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