Physical Therapy Coding – ICD-9 vs. ICD-10

It is common knowledge that ICD-9 codes are going to be replaced this year by the ICD-10.  These codes are essential for patient’s medical records.  For physical therapy coding, this codes help in diagnosing and supports the billing processes of any medical facility especially private practices.

Designed in the 1980s by the World Health Organization, these codes are standardizing the way medical practitioners communicate through patients’ records.  In the United States, ICD-9 needs to be replaced due to lack of specificity.  This holds true for physical therapy coding.  ICD-9 does not cover many diagnoses that are commonly used today.

The latest ICD-10 has expanded options and the codes now fall in a more logical order.  They also include advance in the science of medicine, especially those that are covered in physical therapy coding that happened since the adoption of ICD-9 in the United States.  These updated diagnosis codes brings a more accurate system to coders as  need for specificity in describing a patient’s condition and encounter is getting more urgent.

At a closer look, here are some improvements of ICD-10 that can greatly help in physical therapy coding:

  • All codes start with a letter which identifies a specific procedure or condition as it falls in the overall coding system.  The starting letter of the new physical therapy coding system can tell you right away which category the codes are in.
  • The latest ICD-10 physical therapy coding allows more room for new codes to be added in the established system.  As ICD-9 has many obscure codes, ICD-10, on the other hand allows for specificity in coding.
  • Also, ICD-10 now allows adding physical therapy coding to indicate laterality of the procedure or condition.  This transparency lets payers to recognize if an injury is pre-existing or a new one.
  • ICD-10 coding has 68,000 codes compared with the 13,000 codes of ICD-9.

The implementation date of ICD-10 is set on October 1, 2013.  The key, really, to the ability of the coder or billing to adopt the latest physical therapy coding is training and actual use in one’s professional practice.

Although ICD-10 will cause changes in the codes used, it is not going to change how a case should be approached.  It will also be a challenge now on providing a more accurate description or information.  The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) states that professionals using physical therapy coding should have formal training within three months prior to the implementation date.

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