14-Week ICD-1 Training Program

You have fewer than 100 days to make sure you and your staff are prepared to kick some ICD-10 you-know-what come October 1, 2015. Hopefully, you’ve been vigilant in your ICD-10 preparations, but if you haven’t, you’re in luck. I’ve outlined the five steps you need to take in the next three months to get ready:

1. Gather your resources.

You’re already taking advantage of a pretty great resource: the ICD10forPT website. Make sure you poke around the whole site, because we’ve got loads of blog posts, downloadable checklists and one-sheets, and even an interactive game and quiz. But there are tons of other helpful—and free—resources out there, too. Don’t forget to check out the WebPT Blog for even more posts on ICD-10 and how to prepare your practice for the switch.

2. Develop a strategy.

Before you begin your hardcore prepping, you should first assess the impact the ICD-10 switch will have on your organization. Examining your clinic’s current diagnosis coding touchpoints—everything from patient scheduling and referrals to documentation and billing—will help you narrow down your to-do list. But it’s not enough to know what you need to do; you also must make sure you take the necessary actions to get the job done on time. That means you’ll need to develop a detailed timeline and budget.

A great way to ensure your clinic accomplishes all the necessary training tasks is to assign specific tasks as well as target start and completion dates. Obviously, the October 1 deadline is a hard stop, so working backwards from the transition date may help you lay out your ICD-10 prep calendar. But remember, you can’t leave everything until the end. To make sure you stay on track, you’ve got to:

  • prioritize your tasks;
  • figure out how long it will take to complete each one; and
  • determine how much the switch will cost your clinic, factoring in variables like staff training, system updates, and the potential need to hiring coders.

3. Talk to your partners.

ICD-10 prep doesn’t involve only your clinic; you also need to verify that your external partners and payers are prepared. To do so, make a list of all the software and outsourced services on which your practice depends. Then, contact all of them—from EMRs and billing services to payers—and make sure they’re ready to receive, process, and remit for claims containing ICD-10 codes. Keep in mind that if you’re currently shopping for any software, you’ll want to factor ICD-10 into your buying decision. It would be pretty awful to discover that your brand-spankin’-new EMR doesn’t function like you need it to, especially when reimbursement is on the line.

4. Train your staff.

Of course, ICD-10 will impact some staff roles more than others, but even those folks who might not be directly impacted still play an important role in your clinic’s preparations, so you definitely want to get your whole staff involved. Not only can everyone support each other, but they also can hold each other accountable for staying on top of deadlines. With so little time left to prepare, sticking to your timeline is crucial. It’s going to take longer than you think for everyone to unlearn more than 30 years’ worth of coding with ICD-9—and get comfortable coding with ICD-10.

Switching code sets is a huge change. ICD-10 is a whopping five times the size of ICD-9. Plus, the new codes are alphanumeric and contain three to seven characters; the old ones, on the other hand, are mostly numeric and have just three to five digits. So, be patient and flexible with your staff while they learn the new structure. Also, remember that your staff likely have different learning styles, so take advantage of the wide variety of ICD-10 resources to mix up your training approach. There are lots of little ways to squeeze in ICD-10 training every day—things like pop quizzes and practice exercises. And don’t forget the metaphorical gold stars for staff members who give it their all.

5. Test your systems and processes.

Testing for ICD-10 compliance might seem complicated, but like humidity in the South, it’s unavoidable. How you test depends on a couple of factors: documentation and billing. That’s why it’s crucial that you test both internally and externally. All vendors should be testing at some point before October, but you’ll need to check with them to make sure you know exactly when and how they plan to test. Then, take advantage of those testing opportunities to minimize your risk for reimbursement delays and ensure that your practice is totally ready for October.


Switching code sets is a huge undertaking, but it’s not Mission Impossible. I know 14 weeks doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but if you and your staff work hard and efficiently, you can still be prepared for ICD-10 come October 1 (and certainly more prepared than if you did nothing at all). Looking for more resources? Check out the Physical Therapist’s Crunch-Time Guide to ICD-10.