New medical coding system could affect doctor visits

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COLUMBIA - Doctors might seem a little stressed during your next visit thanks to some changes that took place Thursday.

Doctors and hospitals are starting to use a new coding system, also known as ICD-10 or International Classification of Disease.

Prior to Thursday, MU Health Care Bryan Bliven said health providers used a system of roughly 13,000 codes. Now, he said there are 68,000 codes a doctor can use to make a diagnosis.

Codes are used to describe a patient's visit on insurance claims for reimbursement purposes.

Bliven said if someone comes in with a burn on their arm before they could not identify which arm. Now, the new system allows for more specificity.

He said there are still some challenges this new system may cause.  

"There is a lot of unknown, you're sharing the information, you're sending it out to your biller saying here is the work we have done for this patient and will they be ready to accept the new format?" 

He said most of the world has already been using ICD.

"The United States is one of the last to implement it, but the only ones to tie it into the billing and financial side of it." Bliven said. 

MU Health Care has a partnership with Cerner Corporation called the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation that allows it to be one of the first to test ICD-10 technology prior to Thursday's launch.

Bliven said MU Health Care has been working on it for quite some time, and it was actually supposed to be launched at this time last year.

He said doctors have been trained on the new technology and it has been used in test environments. 

Boone Hospital Center spokesman Ben Cornelius said Boone Hospital Center and all of the BJC Health Care hospitals are also well positioned to achieve a successful ICD transition.