November 29, 2010 | | Comments 0
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A bare bones look at anatomy and physiology education

I have heard and read many discussions that coders will need to get in-depth education on anatomy and physiology (A&P) and pathophysiology before we flip the switch to ICD-10. The more I thought about it, the more questions I had. What will be changing so much with ICD-10 that we need to get “re-educated,” when certified coders and HIM professionals already have a basic to advanced understanding in these areas? Was I missing the gist of the discussions because I didn’t understand what we are referring to? So I “googled” the terms, and here are the definitions:

Human physiology is the science of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of humans in good health, their organs, and the cells of which they are composed. The principal level of focus of physiology is at the level of organs and systems within systems. Physiology is closely related to anatomy; anatomy is the study of form, and physiology is the study of function. Due to the frequent connection between form and function, physiology and anatomy are intrinsically linked and are studied in tandem as part of a medical curriculum.

Pathophysiology is the study of the changes of normal mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions, either caused by a disease, or resulting from an abnormal syndrome. More formally, it is the branch of medicine which deals with any disturbances of body functions, caused by disease or prodromal symptoms. The study of pathology and the study of pathophysiology often involves substantial overlap in diseases and processes, but pathology emphasizes direct observations, while pathophysiology emphasizes quantifiable measurements. Pathophysiology looks at the specific malfunctioning that comes from or – alternately – causes disease.

With that said, this triggered even more questions. Regarding anatomy, the T-4 vertebrae has not moved or morphed in some way. For physiology, the endocrine system continues to function the same as it always has.

But what about pathophysiology? Is this our weak link when it comes to training for ICD-10? Is ICD-9 so inferior to ICD-10 that we really haven’t understood how the body works or doesn’t work for all of these years? Are we behind the 8-ball not only for learning a new classification system but at the same time having to learn what normal and abnormal body functions are? For those of us who will have to use ICD-10-PCS, hasn’t CPT already prepared us for a greater degree of specificity? Won’t the Body Part Key in PCS help us out when we get stuck?

I am an advocate for a variety of continuing education in HIM, which includes all of these areas that are defined above. I will take a leap of faith and assume that most of us have kept current on developing diseases and technology, that we have done research on the web, and that we have asked our medical staff these types of questions all along. I guess my point is that we probably don’t need to invest in college level courses. We do know the body, its parts and its functions – let’s give ourselves some credit. But between now and that magical day on October 1, 2013, we need to gain confidence in what we do know and be aware of what we don’t know and get specific education to fill the gap. Personally, I don’t think continuing education in these modalities has to be as monumental of a task as it is being made out to be.

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Debbie Mackaman About the Author: Debbie Mackaman, RHIA, CHCO, is an instructor for HCPro’s Medicare Boot Camp®—Hospital Version and Critical Access Hospital Version. She has over 18 years of experience in the healthcare industry, including both inpatient and outpatient Prospective Payment Systems (IPPS, OPPS) and Critical Access Hospital (CAH) coding and reimbursement issues. She most recently held the position of the Compliance Officer and Director of Health Information Services for a healthcare system.

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