Changes coming to the health care industry

St. Joseph County, Ind. Remember the big Y2K scare in 2000 that was supposed to bring the banking and financial industries to their knees?

Well now the health care industry is facing a similar situation, between now and October 1 of next year and it's called ICD-10.

It will require a massive overhaul of the nation's medical coding system.

Tonight Just Before Six we take a look at what that means for you and me and whether Michiana and the nation will be ready.

The clock is already ticking at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center for the changeover from our current medical coding system ICD-9 to ICD-10.

ICD stands for the international classification of diseases and is used for diagnosing illnesses and conditions and for billing patients and insurers. You've probably noticed all those codes on sheets you bring home from the doctor’s office.

What you may not know is the U.S. is the last industrialized country to adopt ICD-10 and national expert Ira Shapiro says it must happen.

“It is because we basically ran out of codes for new diagnoses and new procedures,” says Ira Shapiro the chairman and CEO of Codesmart.

And Shapiro says hospitals and clinics nationwide need to be prepared by October 1, 2014.

“If you're a medical biller or coder you have the highest level of education need, almost 200 to 250 hours of training,” says Shapiro. “If you're a physician, clinician, nurse, a physician assistant you have to learn the clinical documentation as well as the codes in your area of specialty.”

So we know what ICD-10 is and why it's needed but how are hospitals gearing up to better serve providers and patients.

Dr. Dale Deardorff of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center says their hospital and others in the area have been preparing for the last three years. He says basically the change amounts to an expanded dictionary of medical terminology.

“It's going to involve a lot of change, it's going to involve a lot of work,” says Dr. Dale Deardorff of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. “It's going to be more precise. It's going to be good for everybody. It's going to improve research in medicine. It's going to be better for payers as well, to bring it up to world wide standards. We will be prepared, our physicians will be prepared, our revenue folks will be prepared so we will be prepared.”

So why are so many doctors discouraged by the switch? Deardorff says doctors, like most, don't like change, but he says they are already using the precise diagnoses that will be needed for the switch.

So how will it affect you, the patient? Deardorff says other than the code sheet from your doctor looking different, nothing.

“It's still going to be the same co-pay, it's still going to be the same care in the physician’s office,” says Dr. Deardorff.

And both men say in the long wrong it will be better for patients, hospitals, doctors and insurers and be more precise.

“It should be a win win for everyone involved,” says Dr. Deardorff.

And Shapiro says it's also going to mean more high paying jobs for people interested in the medical field which he believes could help returning vets or parents who want to work from home.

“There could be roughly 15 million people that require some form of training in the industry and then there may be a shortage, as many as 3 to 4 million coders,” says Dr. Deardorff.

Deardorff says training is already underway at St. Joseph, with more ahead. And both agree patient care will improve however painful the changeover may be at first.

“It's actually a real plus for many reasons including patient care, financial specificity in terms of reimbursement,” says Shapiro.

“The future of medicine and the electronic media and the computer age has just really just starting,” says Dr. Deardorff. “To quote Charles Dickens, "It's be the best of times, it's the worst of times" so sometime the changes are the worst but they're really for the best.

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