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Steve Baker on ICD-10 compliance

4 ways to ease your practice through the ICD-10 transition

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.

October is on the horizon, and fall is one of my favorite times of year. But many healthcare providers aren’t especially eager for Oct. 1 to arrive since that date marks the final cut-over to ICD-10.

It seems like we’ve been talking about this change for years, yet a May 2015 study by the California Medical Association found that 51 percent of physicians said they were only minimally prepared while 21 percent were not ready at all.

This is also true in eyecare: Some professionals have been gearing up for months, while others are just starting to get ready. If you’re in the latter group, don’t panic. Here are four easy steps you can take to ease your ICD-10 transition:


Get the ICD-10 codes.They’re available from various sources and in different formats. You can access them online (, through practice management and electronic health record solutions and even on smartphone apps.

Prioritize. With nearly five times as many codes, ICD-10 is far more complex than ICD-9. Fortunately, most eyecare professionals use a small set of codes most of the time — so you can focus on gaining confidence with ICD-10 versions of the diagnosis codes that you use most, then learn some of the lesser-used codes later.

Know your insurance companies. Doing a little research now could pay off later. Make a list of the insurance companies you work with most frequently and collect their phone numbers or web sites. Many payers have created special communication channels just for the ICD-10 transition, so gather the contact information and you and your staff will know exactly who to call when questions pop up after Oct. 1.

Prepare for interruptions. Inevitably, some claims will be delayed or rejected as the industry moves to ICD-10. Your staff may make billing errors while learning the new code structure. Payers may also have processing challenges, delaying payment on perfectly good claims. Take the time to identify an internal process for tracking or resolving these claims and implement it by Oct. 1. Having a clear plan in place will save you time in the long run.

Change can be hard, but when it comes to ICD-10, it doesn’t need to be a nerve-wracking experience. Will ICD-10 create difficulties in the short-term as you transition? Will it take time for you and your team to adjust?

Perhaps. But it helps to keep the long-term perspective in mind: ICD-10 will result in more accurate payments for new procedures, fewer rejected claims, fewer improper claims and most importantly, improved disease management, patient care and better profitability for your practice. And those are definitely things to be excited about.


As president of Eyefinity, the eyecare industry’s leading provider of practice management and EHR solutions and one of five businesses comprising VSP Global, Steve Baker is focused on business growth, strategic planning and product development. Contact him at


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