By Angela Lima, BS, CCS, CDIP, COC, CIC, AAPC-Approved Instructor

One of the particular joys/challenges of being a coder is that codes and guidelines change every year. Sometimes massive overhauls and sometimes subtle changes.

The massive overhauls are almost easier to handle. There is training available to lay-out the changes in detail. There are endless blogs and presentations to help you understand what the changes mean. You huddle with your coding colleagues to decide as a group how to apply it to your particular organization. All hands on deck! Time to implement a big change.

The subtle changes can be sneaky. You need to apply your coder’s famed attention to detail and realize that how you coded these diagnoses or procedures in the past is not what you will be doing in the future. For example, the change in the excludes1 to excludes2 note for code D64.81 Anemia due to antineoplastic chemotherapy allows for coding D61.1 Aplastic anemia due to antineoplastic chemotherapy in addition to code D64.81 if documentation supports this code. Of course, sequencing depends on the circumstances of the admission.

So what can you do as a coder to embrace the yearly changes?

Appreciate the importance
Accurate coding is a high bar. It is also essential. If your coding is not up to date you may be coding incorrectly. By an objective standard, it might appear to be a minor change, but if it is wrong your incorrect coding can result in delays or even denials.

Pay attention to the applicable period for any code set
Remember, the new code sets for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS go into effect for outpatient encounters and inpatient discharges that occur on October 1st each year. This means that coders need to pay attention to the date of the encounter or discharge date and be aware of which year’s code set needs to be applied.

Verify your tools have been updated
While CM and PCS codes change October 1, there is often a lag in updating the tools you use and depend on. Your encoder, your coding education, even instructions from your organization may all need to be updated.

On a positive note, this level of challenge makes coders valuable to their organization. Coders are the ones who do pay attention and ensure that the coding is accurate and up to date. The ones who push back on payers who are themselves not fully up to date. The ones who are agitating for the updates to the encoder essential to the coding process.

My advice to any coder is to embrace the challenge. Know that you will be facing changes to the codes and guidelines at least yearly for your entire professional career. Know that you are the best defense your organization has to ensure the quality of data.

Yes, it is challenging. But it is also a joy. Happy (Coding) New Year!

FY 2022: Happy (Coding) New Year!
Codes Change Yearly. Are You Ready for FY 2022? Celebrate and see our complete catalog of updated ICD-10-CM/PCS courses and choose the training you need for the upcoming year.
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