Attention medical coders and health care professionals: you do not need to wait until 2011 or 2012 to start your ICD-10 training. Even with implementation scheduled for October 2013, it's not too soon to prepare. Why? More than 50,000 new ICD-10 codes will require preparation, review and practice – and lots of it!

Here's why you should not wait to learn the new ICD-10 codes:

1. You need to know more than ICD-10 codes – A thorough understanding of ICD-10 requires anatomy and physiology and medical terminology knowledge. Not up to speed? You'll have to enroll in a course to gain a solid foundation. A comprehensive A & P course can take a year or longer to complete.

2. The new ICD-10 codes will require more than 40 hours to learn – Although most ICD-10 classes typically include 40 hours of instruction, you will need more time to learn, practice and comprehend the new codes. Your learning time will exceed the number of class hours.

3. There is a high learning curve – Think about how many mistakes occurs with just 13,000 codes. How are coders going to move to 68,000 codes and get it all right in a short amount of time? You need to plan ahead.

4. Be ahead of your peers – Let's face it, many people are going to wait to get trained. You can get a jump start on your competitors by getting started now. While others delay, you will already be on the path to ICD-10.

5. Gain a competitive advantage now – Your knowledge of ICD-10 codes will ensure that your resume goes to the top of the pile. You'll gain a competitive advantage because you'll be done while others are just getting started.

6. Be ready to pass a coding proficiency exam – Existing coders will be required to pass the AAPC ICD-10 proficiency test. By fully learning the ICD-10 codes and gaining hands-on practice, you'll be prepared.

7. Save your provider, hospital or billing company money – Medicare is expanding it audits. Coding errors can result in fines or loss of licensure. You need to know what you are doing, with a full understanding of ICD-10 codes.

8. Your knowledge of ICD-10 will become second nature – With advanced knowledge of ICD-10 codes, you will be treated and well-versed by the time that implementation rolls around. You will not second guess your code selections.

9. Expand your role in ICD-10 – Trained coders can also help in the education and training of others in a consultant or transition role. Play an important part in ICD-10 implementation. If everyone waited, who would train the trainees?

10. Be proactive, not reactive – The knowledge you get from early training will allow you to prepare for a smoother tomorrow. Plan ahead, be prepared!

Getting a head start on ICD-10 can provide you with ample time to fully learn and practice the new ICD-10 codes as well as give you a distinct career advantage. By learning now, you can also play a key role in the transition and be an asset to your organization. Use your knowledge to keep your career moving forward and help your company get up to speed – it's a win-win for everyone!

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