ICD-10: Are We There Yet?

With the ICD-10 transition approaching, you might feel like a kid again—trapped in the back of the family car, wondering when you’ll finally arrive at your destination. But the countdown is on, and with just a shade under six weeks to go, we don’t have much more time to prepare. Is your ICD-10 trip a smooth one? Have you taken one too many pit-stops along the way and can’t seem to figure out how to get back on the road to a successful coding transition? Don’t worry; grab a snack and pull out your map because we still have some serious mileage to cover.

The Grace Period Truck Stop

While a quick nap at a truck stop might sound like a great idea, it’s no substitute for a solid night’s sleep. And just as cat-napping amid semi trucks might give you a feeling of pseudo-rest, the 12-month grace period announced by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) might give you a false sense of security. During that period, even if you don’t receive claim denials due to not coding to the highest degree of specificity (as long as you submit codes from the correct family), not making an effort to select specific codes will only delay the inevitable. Here’s the cold, hard truth: if you don’t learn how to code properly before October 1, you probably won’t know how to do so by the time the grace period is over. Plus, this grace period is only for Medicare claims. That means you can kiss your commercial insurance payments goodbye if you apply the same coding flexibility Medicare will offer during the grace period to your private payers. So, save yourself a lot of extra work—and denied payments—down the road and get yourself tuned up to code in ICD-10 now: spring for the metaphorical hotel room (i.e., properly prepare your clinic) and find true rest in the fact that you’re up-to-coding speed, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed come October 1.

The 7th Character Roundabout

Roundabouts aren’t all that fun. You wait; then you go; and then, you finally realize you’re in the wrong lane and the “slight right” prompt coming from your annoyingly British GPS did you no good. Soon, you’re turned around and headed down a road you never intended on traveling. Much like drivers in a roundabout, therapists are getting turned around by the oh-so-confusing seventh character. And understandably so: CMS hasn’t exactly been clear in its seventh character instructions—and that has led many providers in an unspecified direction. But as you know, with ICD-10, “unspecified” doesn’t cut it. The biggest conundrum we’ve come across at WebPT? Proper use of the characters “A” or “D.” This question has popped so often that we’ve covered the topic in several blog posts.

If you’re still feeling a little turned around, don’t have to worry. There are plenty of coding resources available—you just need to use them. Want a specific coding example? Check out this PT-specific scenario that not only covers the seventh character, but also explains how to code for a direct access patient.

The Final Destination

No matter what roadblocks are in your way, this ICD-10 car will keep on movin’. And any whining—don’t make me turn this car around!—isn’t going to do us any good. As long as we keep a positive attitude, don some sweet sunglasses, and blast a rockin’ playlist, “Are we there yet?” can’t bring us down. What’s on my ICD-10 preparedness playlist?

Watch the ICD-10 Bootcamp Webinar

Join myself and compliance expert Rick Gawenda for our upcoming ICD-10 bootcamp webinar. During this presentation, we’ll walk through coding examples for PTs, OTs, and SLPs, showing attendees how to locate the codes within both the tabular list and WebPT. As a bonus, we plan on extending this free webinar from an hour to a full 90 minutes. That way, we’ll have lots of time to host a comprehensive live Q&A session, during which we’ll cover our audience’s most pressing questions. Oh, and it’s totally free. Register here to snag your spot.

Get an ICD-10 Code Book

You really can’t tackle ICD-10 without a good code book to serve as your coding roadmap. I suggest purchasing Instacode: ICD-10 Coding for Physical Therapy. Want more coding-book bang for your buck? If you’re a WebPT Member, you can purchase the book through the WebPT Marketplace at a discounted rate (and I highly recommend that you do).

Explore ICD-10 for PT

Are you into learning? Do you like quizzes, games, and educational resources? Then, ICD-10 for PT is the site for you. Check out this website for the latest industry news and an arsenal of educational resources covering everything ICD-10 for PTs.

Read the WebPT Blog

Finally, to help therapists further ready themselves for a successful ICD-10 transition, WebPT is covering ICD-10 all this month (and next!) on our blog. Our content is always free, and I hope you’ll subscribe to follow along. And trust me, it’s not all dry and drab reading; in addition to our webinars, videos, and blog posts, we’ve created educational—and fun—quizzes to keep you on your toes.


Whether you haven’t even started packing yet—or you’re speeding down the fast lane toward ICD-10—the destination is inevitable. Are we there yet? Not quite. But, there’s no need to despair, because there are plenty of interesting sights along the way. Pit stop anyone? Not so fast—keep your eyes on the road, because we’ll be there before you know it.

About the Author

Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L, Founder and COO of WebPT

As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent small businesses, speaks as a subject matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. Heidi is a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice physical therapy clinics.

Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences and Exercise Physiology, went on to earn her MPT at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and recently obtained her DPT through EIM. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.