The year keeps marching on, and we’re already fewer than seven full months away from the mandatory transition to ICD-10. It’s time to get going on your ICD-10 preparations so you don’t find yourself dead in the water come October. If your prep game is on point, then you’ve already amassed a veritable library of ICD-10 resources and determined your clinic’s ICD-10 champion (or champions). But you can’t stop there, so we’ve put together a list of what you need to do over the next seven months to finalize your clinic’s preparations for the switch.

March: The Once-Over

To make sure the transition to ICD-10 doesn’t sink your ship, you’ll need to take a good, hard look at your practice and inspect it from sails to keel, port to starboard, bow to stern, and everywhere in between. Here’s how to get your magnifying glass into every nook and cranny:

  • Determine your current diagnosis coding processes and run an ICD-10 compliance audit to ensure those processes can accommodate the new codes.
  • Figure out how your staff currently interacts with ICD-9 codes, and pinpoint the ones they use most frequently; then, learn their ICD-10 equivalents. This also is a good time to decide if you need to hire a coder.
  • Double-check with your external vendors (like your billing service, EMR, and payers) to verify their ICD-10 preparedness. If they aren’t ready or don’t even have a plan in place, you might want to take your money elsewhere. And if you’re in the market for new software, make sure you consider ICD-10 functionality when choosing your vendor—and plan ahead to give your staff enough time to get comfortable with the new program before the ICD-10 switch.
  • Cover your financial bases by creating an ICD-10 clinic budget. Don’t forget to include costs related to technological and software upgrades, training courses for your staff, and coding guides and superbills.

So, why must you dive into all these details? To develop an effective game plan. Based on the information you uncover, you and your ICD-10 champions will create a to-do timeline for your clinic that gets everyone involved and up-to-speed in a timely fashion.

April-September: Training Day(s)

At this point, spring has sprung—and we’re leaping into the final six months before the ICD-10 transition. This six-month stretch—during which you’ll enact your plan of action—will be crucial to your success. This is an all-hands-on-deck process, so remember to include even those staff members who may not be directly impacted by the switch to ICD-10. With so many different folks on your team, training can be tricky, so here are a few tips to help you lead the way:

  • Be a good DJ. Chances are, the members of your team have a variety of different learning styles, so when it comes to your educational approach, you’ve got to show off your mixing skills.
  • Bend—don’t snap. Switching code sets is a huge change, so be patient and flexible with your staff while they learn the new structure. Basically, don’t be like Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day.
  • Seize the moment. Each day is a new opportunity for you and your staff to engage in ICD-10 training, so get crackin’. Bring back some high school memories with pop quizzes, and add in practice exercises to work those ICD-10 muscles. Remember to acknowledge those staff members who really dedicate themselves to learning the new code set.

May-September: Clinic Tested; Payer Approved

The first day of fall (September 23, in case you were wondering) will be here before we know it; before that date hits, you’ll want to make sure your vendors have their ICD-10 ducks in a row. Testing for ICD-10 compliance may seem complicated, but avoiding it could lead you into rough seas once we transition to the new code set. My advice:

  • You need to test. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Test internally and externally.
  • Again, check with your vendors. This time, make sure you know how they plan to test, if at all (though all vendors and practitioners should be testing at some point before October).
  • Once you know your vendors’ testing plans, take advantage of them to ensure preparedness for both parties. It would be bad news bears to find out after the switch that you, your partners, or—worse—all of you weren’t ready.

October 1, 2015: You Did It!

Treat yo’ self with a pat on the back, and take a moment to thank your staff for putting so much hard work into making your ICD-10 transition smooth sailing.

So, there you have it: your seven-month countdown of ICD-10 preparations. Easy peasy, right? Okay, maybe not, but I can assure you that all that prep work is well worth your time. Looking for more in-depth preparation information? Check out our webinar for a complete ICD-10 prep checklist.