American Medical Association Is Against Employing ICD-10 Medical Codes

Health professionals everywhere are busily preparing to implement the latest incarnation of medical billing codes, the ICD-10 system, which is set to be fully implemented in October of 2014.

Many doctors and hospitals have already taken the new codes as a fact of doing business as a medical professional, but members of the American Medical Association continue to advocate against the new codes, a position they have held for quite some time.

The Cost of Updating Codes

The primary reason that the AMA has held its position against the ICD-10 codes is that they have assessed that the codes will result in major costs for all practices: costs that may be as high as $80,000 per physician. These costs may not yield much in returns for physicians, who will have to educate themselves and their staff on new coding procedures and who will have to adopt and become proficient on updated coding software, which adds tens of thousands of codes to the lexicon of conditions which may be described in billing.

These codes are ostensibly a way in which physicians will be able to bill with more precision, but may actually continue to be somewhat deficient in their ability to adequately describe a variety of procedures. It is the view of the AMA that costs associated with the new codes may be so prohibitive that some small practices will even be forced to close.

Advocacy to Transition Directly to ICD-11

Rather than shift from the current coding system, ICD-9 to ICD-10, the AMA recommends that the ICD-10 codes be skipped completely and that medical professionals instead transition directly to ICD-11 codes, which are slated to be implemented in 2015, but which could feasibly be implemented as late as 2017.

It is the view of the AMA that doing so will encompass all important changes and be much more financially viable for physicians with practices of all sizes. ICD-11 codes will include many of the updates included in the ICD-10 system, as well as some new updates.

Prolonging the deadline by which physicians must update codes and reducing the number of updates that need to be implemented will help reduce costs for doctors and hospitals who will be able to complete training and coding education on a more realistic timeline.

Cost To Update System May Depend On A Number of Factors

The true amount of the costs associated with implementing new codes will depend on a number of factors, which will vary from practice to practice. Practices that have already fully shifted to the use of Electronic Health Records will experience lower costs when it comes to updating software and reporting techniques.

The resources available to any given practice will also play a role in the degree to which updating codes will take a financial toll. Practices with office staffs who also have to maintain tasks like billing and coding themselves may find their time especially sapped by the process of updating coding.

Even under normal circumstances, staying on top of billing and coding can be a relatively taxing process for many practices. Practices that outsource billing may have much more resources available to them and may be able to complete education and training while incurring fewer costs.

No Change In The October Deadline

Despite the AMA’s continued advocacy for a later compliance deadline, there has been no shift in the date by which practices and hospitals are expected to have fully transitioned. It remains to be seen whether the AMA’s assessment of the costs associated with these changes will be as high as they predicted, and hospitals and doctors are continuing to prepare for use of the new system.