Why ICD-10 Was Such A Big Step For Medical Billing

November 4th, 2022 - Find-A-Code
Categories:   Coding   Diagnosis Coding  

Why ICD-10 was such a big step for medical billingUnless you have been part of the medical billing industry for more than a decade, you probably don't appreciate the enormity of implementing ICD-10. Way back when first introduced, there was little argument against updating the coding system through which medical procedures, equipment, and medications are paid for. But there was plenty of argument over whether the industry should skip ICD-10 and go right to ICD-11.

Looking back on things, going from ICD-9 to ICD-10 was enormously helpful despite the move amounting to little more than an incremental step to ICD-11. But so much was added to the system via the ICD-10 update that it is kind of hard to imagine what would have happened had we just skipped over it.

A Nearly Ten-Fold Increase

The move to ICD-10 was necessitated by an outdated system that simply didn't contain enough billing codes to cover all the available services, procedures, medical equipment, and drugs medical payers were being billed for. Without enough codes, medical billing was unnecessarily slow and inefficient. The system was sluggish, to say the least.

By the time the U.S. system got around to looking at ICD-10, proposals called for increasing the total number of available codes from just 26,000 to 155,000. That is a nearly 6-fold increase.

Prior to ICD-10, medical billing and insurance companies dealt with just 13,000 diagnosis codes and 3,000 procedure codes. ICD-10 implementation increased the numbers to 68,000 and 87,000, respectively. ICD-11 added even more codes to the list. By not skipping ICD-10, the system was updated in two steps rather than one.

Introducing Greater Complexity

Implementing ICD-10 has been largely seen as a good thing. However, perspective plays a crucial role in one's opinion of the system. On the one hand, increasing the total number of billing codes by such a large degree implies a more detailed system that should lead to greater accuracy in everything from reimbursements to record keeping. On the other hand, medical billing codes are a lot like the tax code. The bigger things get, the more complicated they become.

We are not complaining, mind you, but one of the reasons Find-A-Code exists is the complexity of the medical billing environment. If you are a medical coder, you need access to hundreds of thousands of codes on a daily basis. Familiarity allows you to memorize the most often utilized codes, but you still have to look up the ones you don't know.

We provide a centralized, online library that allows coders to look up the information they need as easily as running a standard search on Google. Imagine if online tools like ours were not available. Coders would be thumbing through stacks of books trying to find often obscure information. That doesn't make for a very efficient system.

No Better Way

There is no better way to compile and search medical billing codes than doing so online in a cloud-based environment. Cloud computing wasn't even around when officials began discussing the need for ICD-10. That was fine for the simple fact that the existing system worked well enough with only 26,000 codes to deal with. But the 6-fold increase that came with ICD-10 forced the system into the cloud. That may have been the most profound effect of all.

Despite implementation of ICD-11, medical billing companies and individual coders still rely heavily on ICD-10. The update had such a profound and lasting effect on the system that it is still felt today. Will the system ever get another update as important as ICD-10? Perhaps. But ICD-10 will remain one for the medical billing history books.


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