physical therapy billing with ICD-10

Is Your Practice Ready for ICD-10?

The notion that change is inevitable is contrived but true. If at any point health care ceases to change, then we should all be worried, because if there is no change, inevitably there is no growth. The other side of this coin is the notion that change itself produces worry and confusion.

The climate of health care in the United States has been forever changed and, come what may, it will not go back to what it was. Almost in tandem we are all preparing for the global health care change from the current International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-9 to the monolithic ICD-10 coding system. There is no need to enter a sympathetic nervous system frenzy as long as you are educated on what to expect and have an electronic medical record system that will support your business and transfer to the ICD-10 system in real time.

If you visit the government site, you will be instantly greeted with a ticking countdown to the October 1, 2015 ICD-10 compliance deadline. Those who are paying attention recognize that the initial set date for implementation was October 1, 2013. As if awaiting a rapidly approaching train in a station, we scrambled in attempts to prepare staff, billing systems, patient’s, anyone involved in implementation or reception of health care.

Then we learned that the change would be delayed one year to October 1, 2014. More scrambling ensued. And then in August we were informed that yet again the change would be delayed for one year to October 1, 2015. Hopefully, this time around, the world will be prepared.

ICD-10 coding compliance pertains to any healthcare provider covered by the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act.1 This of course includes physical therapists, many which are concerned about the cost surrounding updating their technology and training staff. The center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) has created an online module titled The road to 10 available at: Within this site one may find tips for implementation for small practice. A five step plan is provided in effort to guide practitioners to preparation complete with a printable checklist.

The Road to 10 plan includes steps such as “updating your process” which pertains to analyzing company policies and procedures, and analyzing the quality of documentation supplied by staff. The next step is the elephant in the room for most clinics. This involves engaging with partners and vendors and includes recommendations for technology staff.

The CMS recommends ensuring that your electronic medical record vendor has updated their software and is compliant with all codes updated. A key question to ask is whether or not the version of EMR that you are engaging in has 5010 capability. This will indicate whether or not you are able to submit your diagnostic coding to third party payers3. This is also where grumblings from clinicians who have held out with paper charting may be heard echoing through the canyons.

At this point physical therapists have not been mandated to switch to electronic medical records (EMR), however all of our peers have, including family practice doctors, podiatrists, and chiropractors. It is speculated that this may influence referral patterns to physical therapists from referral sources who do not have the capability to send and receive paper charting from those physical therapists who have declined to engage in EMR.

This may create further barriers for these clinicians when the ICD-10 changes come about as training billing and coding staff who operate on a paper based system may take time away from current clinic tasks, and may result in human errors that can be costly. In this regard, EMR can be an enormous asset to small physical therapy practitioners, and the ability to accurately code, and bill electronically can pay for itself quickly due to expedited and improved reimbursement from payers.

With the fear of change one may seek comfort in the fact that Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes will not change for the outpatient realm. What we will find when we receive or implement diagnostic coding under the new system is that the terminology is much lengthier and highly specified.

For example, instead of an ICD-9 code of 724.2 Lumbago, under ICD-10 coding the diagnostic term becomes M54.5 Low back pain due to intervertebral disc displacement, or perhaps M54.5 Low back pain due to pregnancy; the diagnostic code involves mechanism of injury and highly specified features of the low back pain (with or without radiculopathy, etcetera).

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has many resources available to practitioners in anticipation of this change as well. Key practice Impacts of the ICD-10 upgrade, Webinars with suggestions for planning ahead, and an upcoming release of clinical examples of phsyical therapy specific coding are all available at:

In the end, the train that is ICD 10 coding is approaching us, and we must board in order to continue practicing physical therapy. Get yourself a map: The road to 10 by the CMS is a good one, and pack your comfortable shoes. In the end we choose our attitude, we can embrace and enjoy this trip with the right amount of preparation and protection from appropriately updated EMR as our insurance. bestPT EMR is ready for ICD 10 and staff is available to guide each individual practice in their implementation of our new coding system.

  1. ICD-10. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Available at: . Accessed on June 3rd 2015.
  2. The road to 10: The small physician practice’s route to ICD 10. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. Available at: Accessed on June 4th 2015.
  3. ICD 10 Fact Sheet: Basics for small and rural practices. Available at: Accessed on June 4th 2015.
  4. ICD 10. American Physical Therapy Association. Available at: Accessed on: June 4th 2015.

-Amanda Olson, DPT