Ask the nursing expert ... about ICD-10's impact on nurses

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Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA
Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA

What is ICD-10?

ICD-10 is the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases published by the World Health Organization. We have used ICD-9 since the 1970s and those codes have limitations that prevent precise coding and billing of conditions and treatments.

ICD-9 provides no information in the five-digit code about anatomical site, severity or risk factors and, therefore, hinders accurate reimbursement. ICD-10's seven-digit code provides more specific data and better reflects today's medical practices. After many years of delays, ICD-10 will go into effect Oct. 1.

What does this mean for nurses?

Accurate and descriptive nursing documentation will become even more important to ensure that when the medical records staff assign codes, the ICD-10 codes are as accurate and as precise as they can be.

Education of nurses, doctors and even vendors will be required to make the October 2014 start to ICD-10 smooth and successful. Most computer programs used by nurses and therapists providing hands-on care are ready to receive ICD-10 codes.

The type of facility you are in, the type of patients you have and the length of their stay will determine how the changeover is put into place. For instance, most skilled nursing facilities will begin to input ICD-10 codes for their long-term residents now and save them in the computer database so they will be prepared for the changeover in less than six months. 

Your departments and staff will need ongoing training to develop the skills needed to code correctly. 

Remember, as the nurse caregiver, your most important contribution to ICD-10 success will be excellent clinical documentation.

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