ICD-10 to usher in new generation of tech-savvy medical coders

ICD-10 to usher in new generation of tech-savvy medical coders

Hospitals are starting to hire younger, more diverse people to handle the new coding. The shift will likely benefit healthcare organizations in time, but it won’t happen overnight.  

The transition to ICD-10 is already beginning to change the make-up of coding staffs.

While ICD-9 coders, aka Niners, tended to be predominantly middle-aged women unready or unwilling to learn the new ICD-10 codes, the next generation is poised to be younger, more gender diverse and tech savvy.

“We saw some Tenners hired a year ago before the delay was announced,” said Pauline O’Dowd, senior director with Chicago-based Huron Healthcare. “Some of the older coders delayed their retirement, while others left.”

The rationale among many ICD-9 coding veterans: Too much to learn, too late in life … might as well retire.

The difference in volume between ICD-9 and ICD-10 is staggering: 69,368 diagnosis codes and 87,000 procedure codes under 10, compared with 13,500 diagnosis codes and 4,000 procedure codes under 9.

A self-described Niner, Diane Rivers said if things progressed according to that script, she would have followed many of her colleagues out the door.

Instead, Rivers ended up becoming an expert in ICD-10.”I saw the handwriting on the wall in 2012 and thought by the time ICD-10 hit I’d retire and become an artist,” she said. “I reached a crossroads and I could either join my friends in retirement or take it seriously. I decided to buckle down and learn it.”

Admittedly, Rivers “begrudgingly” began learning ICD-10 and found the experience trying at first, but through arduous commitment she began to “see it for what it is ― a new language and a way to keep my mind sharp.”

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