Most anyone involved with delivering, receiving or billing for healthcare has heard the buzz about the upcoming implementation of ICD-10. One population that will feel the greatest impact of the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is medical coders. Introduction of the new code set will permeate literally every aspect of a coder’s responsibilities. As a result we often hear from students who are wondering if now is a good time to enter the field of medical coding. They worry that what they are currently learning will become obsolete and that they will have to “start all over again”. The long and short of it is that, now is still a great time to get educated and certified as a medical coder. In fact there are many advantages to entering the coding industry now as opposed to after transitioning from ICD-9 to of ICD-10. The following outlines some of the reasons for and advantages of training now;
- Cost – The bottom line for a lot of people is how much will it cost? The ICD-10 code set is many times more complex than the ICD-9 code set. This increase in complexity naturally indicates an increase in the time and resources required for instruction in its use. This could easily translate into increased cost for basic education in medical coding. Another upside is that, for working coders, the expectation is that the cost for additional training needed to update to ICD-10 will be covered by employers.
- Necessity of employment – Many people who are interested in training as a medical coder are looking to change careers or re-enter the workforce. Generally, the primary motivation is that they need a better job and coding offers an opportunity for an improved employment situation in a continually growing field. The implementation of ICD-10 is still two years away. The ICD-9 code set will continue to be used up until the date of implementation. Currently, there is still an abundance of time to get trained, become certified and work before it’s necessary to begin working in ICD-10.
- Complexity of Content – One of the biggest advantages to training now is that the increased complexity of the ICD-10 code set will, just plain and simple, make it harder to learn. It’s important to recognize that the task of medical coding requires much more than simply locating the correct code in the code book. Skills such as documentation, interpretation, and understanding how to correctly apply the guidelines to insure consistent, accurate, and complete coding often overshadow the actual need to find the code. In comparison to those who get their training after the implementation of ICD-10, the demand of learning correct coding practices will be somewhat less intense when not coupled with also being a newbie at learning how to find codes in the more complex code set. Additionally, by training now, the coder will have time to get employed and really get their feet under them in regard to correct coding practices before having to tackle the more complex ICD-10 set of codes.
- Certification – Taking an exam is usually not on a person’s top 10 list of things they enjoy doing and we often hear from students that they have some amount of concern about how they will perform on certification exams. As the ICD-10 code set is much more complex than the ICD-9 code set it stands to reason that the certification exam will also be more complex and therefore more difficult. Those who train now will have the opportunity to become certified by taking a presumably easier exam based on the ICD-9 codes.
All in all, whether you train and certify under the ICD-9 or ICD-10 code set, coding is a great profession with lots of opportunity for growth and advancement, but there are definitely advantages to getting your coding education now as opposed to waiting until after the implementation of ICD-10.