ICD-9-CM Has Procedure Codes?
In part two of my blog series about coding systems, I’d like to present ICD-9-CM, Volume 3. If you’ve taken classes that are preparing you to take the CPC exam, it might be news to you that ICD-9-CM has three volumes. Or procedure codes. So that’s it: volume 3 of ICD-9-CM is procedure codes.
Hospitals Use It
In part one of this series, I mentioned that HIPAA defines which code sets are used for each health care setting. Volume 3 ICD-9-CM codes are only mandated for hospital inpatient claims. They are a major factor in the determining DRG assignments, which drive hospital inpatient payments.
Some hospitals also assign ICD-9-CM volume 3 codes for hospital outpatients as well. This is solely for data collection purposes but the codes get “scrubbed” off the outpatient bill and don’t go to the insurance company. ICD-9-CM codes may be used to analyze volume of a particular type of procedure performed either as inpatient or outpatient. For example, most appendectomies are performed as outpatients, but if there are complications, a patient may need to be admitted as an inpatient. Hospitals often pull procedure volume for physician credentialing or planning purposes (e.g., to determine if a new specialty unit or more operating rooms are needed). As a coding manager, which was a long time ago, I wrote reports that pulled data based solely on ICD-9 codes. We didn’t use CPT codes to pull data at all at that time.
Why You May Have Never Heard of It
If you’ve never heard of volume 3 codes in school, then it’s likely that you are taking a coding course for physician coding and billing. Physicians don’t use volume 3 of ICD-9. But as mentioned above, hospital coders are using it and if a hospital requires its coders to assign ICD-9 codes on outpatients, they are coding procedures using both ICD-9 and CPT procedure codes. That isn’t as complex as it sounds because most hospitals use encoder software that has a crosswalk between the two code sets. Unfortunately, any time you try to map from one code set to another, there can be errors. If they were easily translatable, we wouldn’t need two code sets!
Here’s another critical tip: if you are buying ICD-9-CM code books, it can be super confusing because there are various publishers and lots of code books with different-yet-similar titles. If you purchase an ICD-9-CM code book for physicians, it will have only volumes 1 and 2. If you buy ICD-9-CM for hospitals, you get all three volumes, or the complete ICD-9-CM code set.
What the Codes Look Like
The code format of volume 3 ICD-9-CM codes is different from other code sets with two numeric digits followed by a decimal point and then one or two more numeric digits. The code category ranges are 00-99. It’s the most straightforward of all of the HIPAA code sets.
Some examples of volume 3 codes are:
- 47.0, Appendectomy
- 36.97, Insertion of drug-eluting coronary artery stent(s)
Commentary on ICD-9 Volume 3 and Argument for ICD-10
If you weren’t trained on ICD-9-CM procedure codes, let me tell you, you aren’t missing much. It is the least robust of all of the coding systems. There just simply aren’t enough three to four-digit codes to keep up with rapidly evolving healthcare technology. We have run out of available codes. This is my biggest argument for ICD-10 implementation. I hate to say that we can live without a diagnosis code update, but in comparison to procedures, the need isn’t as great. We absolutely need a new procedural coding system for ICD in order to keep up with emerging technologies. Plus – and this drives the OCD coder in me crazy – there are hernia repair codes in the eye procedure chapter because it’s the only chapter with available codes!
If you were trained in CPT first and have to learn ICD-9 volume 3 codes, you may find it very difficult, but only because you are trying to find codes as specific as CPT. You will be disappointed because ICD-9 codes aren’t that specific. While there are appendectomy codes in CPT for open and laparoscopic approaches, ICD-9 appendectomy codes don’t differentiate between open and scope procedures.
Who Needs to Learn it?
If you’re planning to take a certification exam, here are the certifications that have traditionally tested on volume 3 ICD-9-CM codes, but keep an eye on test details for the testing switch over to ICD-10:
- CCA (Certified Coding Associate) from AHIMA
- CCS (Certified Coding Specialist) from AHIMA
- CIC (Certified Inpatient Coder) from AAPC (new)
The COC (Certified Outpatient Coder), formerly called the CPC-H (Certified Professional Coder Hospital-based) does not focus at all on ICD-9 volume 3 codes. It does focus on hospital-related CPT codes and, of course ICD-9 diagnosis codes because we all use that.
The bottom line on volume 3 codes, in my opinion, is that it is a coding system with a limited shelf life that isn’t worth learning at this point in the game if we really move forward with ICD-10-CM/PCS in October (or unless you are planning to take one of the above-mentioned certification exams before ICD-10 is implemented). There are enough existing coders to focus on the ICD-9 back work that will be involved after ICD-10 implementation and since this code set is only required for hospitals, it affects a pretty small population of coders overall. But hey, at least you now know what it is and can have an intelligent conversation about it.
Next up: Level I of HCPCS (AKA CPT)…