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At 2015 AHIMA convention, leaders welcome, look past ICD-10

On the eve of the ICD-10 transition, AHIMA leaders at the 2015 AHIMA convention look ahead to a year of ICD-10 implementation and beyond.

NEW ORLEANS -- The mood at the 2015 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit was, as many health information management professionals expected, celebratory.

ICD-10 is here, at last. Or at least it will be as of midnight on Oct. 1, only a few hours after the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) concludes its fortuitously scheduled annual conference.

AHIMA was one of the most prominent groups in the Coalition for ICD-10, which fought against last year's last-minute congressional delay that put off the advent of the new medical coding system for one year.

Now, AHIMA leaders feel satisfied that their advocacy is bearing fruit in the form of a potent new tool that will vastly improve medical care and accuracy.

In this podcast recorded during the preconference sessions, the president and chair of AHIMA, Cassi Birnbaum, and AHIMA's president/chair-elect for 2016, Melissa Martin, said the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is overdue and should be welcomed.

Birnbaum said ICD-10 -- which many here informally refer to as "I-10" or simply "10" -- will make "global population health" possible with its profusion of more specific and detailed diagnostic codes and what its advocates say will be an exponentially richer trove of health data.

Most countries across the world are already using ICD-10.

As for Martin, in the wake of ICD-10, she anticipates a big push for information governance, AHIMA's top agenda item for next year.

With widespread digitization of health records and significantly more patient-generated health data on the horizon, classifying the information and making it more accessible within provider and payer organizations will be more critical than ever, AHIMA leaders said.

Meanwhile, not only does ICD-10 contain more than five times as many codes as ICD-9 (some 68,000 compared to 13,000), it also for the first time specifies laterality in diagnoses, as in what side of the body a condition or injury presents itself.

This increase in coding complexity has touched off apprehension among some in health IT. Individual doctors and those in physician practices say it is needlessly complicated and constitutes, in effect, an unfunded federal mandate because of all the needed time, testing and training.

But most of the several thousand AHIMA convention attendees see the birth of ICD-10 in the United States as heralding a new era in health IT, not as something to be feared.

They, like the rest of us, will now watch as the rollout of ICD-10 plays out on a national scale.

Let us know what you think about the story or the 2015 AHIMA Convention and Exhibit; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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