Posted By Monique Dever On August 24, 2015

Coding Productivity During ICD-10 Transition Matters. Practical Resource for Local Health Departments

As the October 1st ICD-10 changeover date quickly approaches, people are on edge about what to expect. While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have added flexibility in the claims audit and quality reporting processes, the problems remain about other issues, mostly the readiness factors (i.e. coder productivity).
With less than three months or so to go, all hands should be on deck. There are a few things that can be done that may help during the transition as advised by CMS and the Journal of AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association): Staff training, hiring extra coders, utilizing tools and resources.


Staff Training

Each local health department is already using ICD-9 codes to do their clinical notes as well as billing. The existing staff is already familiar with concepts and codes thus they just need to learn the new ICD-10 concepts and codes. So, training your existing team is the most of efficient way to get ready for ICD-10. However, navigating the sea of information available on the web is a challenge. If you are a local health department providing core public health services then it is easy to upgrade your skills and get on ramp with ICD-10. In addition to state health department ICD-10 resources or training, another good resource which provides public health specific cheat sheets and presentation is Patagonia Health website . This website includes specific cheat sheets for public health including immunization, communicable disease and family planning. It is a simple guide which maps the relevant ICD-9 codes to new ICD-10 codes. One may be pleasantly surprised to learn that ICD-10 is much easier for Immunization than with ICD-9. Folks at Patagonia Health are helping local health departments (even if they are not their customer) transition to ICD-10, feel free to drop them a quick question at


Hiring more coders

If you feel that your staff could use some long term temporary help keeping up, there are various options for hiring qualified coders. Contract coding companies are one place to look, and/or your local community college is another good resource. However, due to budget constraints, this may not be a viable option for local health departments.


Tools and Resources

Computer-assisted coding (CAC) can assist in assigning the codes from the documentation up front, and then the coders are able to verify the validity of the codes in an auditor-type role. CAC software scans medical documentation in the electronic health record (EHR), identifies key terminology and/or analyzes the context of key words, and suggests codes for that particular treatment or service, which can then be verified by the coders. However, this by itself is far too complicated for local health departments. Instead, print out and keep these Cheat sheets handy. These cheat sheets cut through all the ICD-10 noise and provide you exactly what you need to help you sail through the ICD-10 transition.


In addition to these three key suggestions, it is imperative to communication with your EHR vendor to ensure they are ready to make the switch to ICD-10. Ask your vendor if they have conducted the necessary tests to ensure success.

CMS also offers a number of free resources that can help including ICD-10 website, Road to 10, Email updates, National Provider Call Events, and webinars.

About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.