As September drew to a close, the medical community was bracing itself for the long-awaited transition from the ICD-9 to the ICD-10 medical classification system.1 Not everyone was prepared for it, however - according to a readiness survey by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, a quarter of physician practice respondents said they weren't ready for the Oct. 1 deadline, while another quarter wasn't sure if they were ready.2 Despite this, the initial transition seems to have gone well, and no major problems have been reported.

Career colleges offering medical billing and coding programs now face a two-pronged challenge: How to train students to work with the new coding system while ensuring they're familiar with the old one, at least until the switch is fully implemented - a process expected to take up to two years. If your career college is transitioning current and continuing education students to the new system, this guide will help you meet the needs of these two student groups.

Introducing New Students to ICD-10

Students who are preparing to enter a health care career need to approach the ICD-10 differently than those who are already working in the field. For new students, the ICD-10 will be the primary coding system used going forward, and it should be the focus of coursework.

However, the ICD-9 will continue to be used for the next 1-2 years, until the transition to ICD-10 is complete. Therefore, it's important to teach new students the basics of ICD-9, how it differs from ICD-10 and the common coding mistakes that can result.

Retraining Experienced Coders

Virtually all health care staff members will need some level of ICD-10 awareness training, and coders, billers and ancillary staff will require specific types of training. Career colleges are in a perfect position to meet these training needs.

Such coders with previous ICD-9 experience will be coming to ICD-10 from a different perspective than new students. They will already be familiar with general medical and coding concepts common to both coding systems. They will need to focus on what ICD-10 adds to their existing knowledge, what changes to be aware of, and what common mistakes to avoid when going from ICD-9 to ICD-10.

Career college coursework and marketing can emphasize these aspects of ICD-10 training when recruiting and teaching experienced coders. Colleges can reach out to alumni and employers to let them know that the opportunity to brush up on ICD-10 with a refresher course is available.

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Resources: Photo credit. (1) ICD-10 (2)