With less than three months remaining until the nation switches from ICD-9 to ICD-10 coding for medical diagnoses and inpatient hospital procedures, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association are announcing joint efforts to continue to help nephrologists and others physicians get ready for the October 1 deadline. In response to requests from the provider community, CMS is releasing additional guidance that will allow for flexibility in the claims auditing and quality reporting process as the medical community gains experience using the new ICD-10 code set.

CMS and AMA will be educating providers through webinars, on-site training, educational articles, and national provider calls to help physicians and other health care providers learn about the updated codes and prepare for the transition.

“As we work to modernize our nation’s health care infrastructure, the coming implementation of ICD-10 will set the stage for better identification of illness and earlier warning signs of epidemics, such as Ebola or flu pandemics.” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of CMS. “With easy-to-use tools, a new ICD-10 ombudsman, and added flexibility in our claims audit and quality reporting process, CMS is committed to working with the physician community to work through this transition.”

“ICD 10 implementation is set to begin on October 1, and it is imperative that physician practices take steps beforehand to be ready,” said AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD. “We appreciate that CMS is adopting policies to ease the transition to ICD-10 in response to physicians’ concerns that inadvertent coding errors or system glitches during the transition to ICD-10 may result in audits, claims denials, and penalties under various Medicare reporting programs. The actions CMS is initiating today can help to mitigate potential problems. We will continue to work with the administration in the weeks and months ahead to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.”

The International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, is used to standardize codes for medical conditions and procedures. The medical codes America uses for diagnosis and billing have not been updated in more than 35 years.

CMS’ free help includes the “Road to 10,” aimed specifically at smaller physician practices with primers for clinical documentation, clinical scenarios, and other specialty-specific resources to help with implementation. CMS has also released provider training videos that offer helpful ICD-10 implementation tips. The agency is also completing the final window of Medicare end-to-end testing for providers this month and offering ongoing Medicare acknowledgement testing for providers through September 30th. A MLN Connects National Provider Call on the transition will also be held on August 27.