Ready or Not: Here Comes ICD-10

According to a survey conducted by eHealth Initiative last month, many provider organizations are still behind in testing for the transition to ICD-10. Only 34 percent of the 271 survey participants said they have completed internal testing, while 17 percent have completed external testing.

For weeks, frustrated providers have asked Congress to postpone the October 1 deadline. Others have requested canceling the transition altogether, arguing the new coding burdens doctors with unnecessary financial and administrative tasks and will cut into time with patients. Many ICD-10 opponents find the new system overly complex since it will increase the number of codes from 7,000 to 150,000, one of which specifies being sucked into a jet engine for a second time.

Those in favor of the new coding system, such as Karen Blanchette, association director for the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management, argue that ICD-9 is not specific enough and that ICD-10 will help further research.

“If we want to be better at what we do, if we want to continue to move forward, then change is going to be a part of that,” said Blanchette, “We have to make the best and smartest decisions about preparation so that the changes seem less disruptive.”

More recently, George Harmon, MD and a member of the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees, spoke on a panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation. He asked Congress to separate the coding system from reimbursements policy completely and to implement a more helpful transition to providers.

“What we’re asking for is a set of training wheels on this new bicycle if we’re forced to ride it,” said Harmon, who added, “large organizations may have the resources to weather this disruption. Small practices such as mine do not.”

Whether Congress will oblige Harmon’s request is unknown. With October rapidly approaching, organizations that have yet to begin the transition should get started immediately, rather than wait for another delay. Here are a few recommended steps to make the October 1 deadline:

  • Continual training on the new code set. There is simply too much information for physicians to learn during an hour-long training session. Training should be monitored and on-going.
  • Designate a person or team of people to manage the transition. An automated tool can help streamline medical coding workflows by limiting inefficiencies.
  • The organization as a whole should support the transition to ICD-10. This may include implementing a tool that acts as a central repository for all training materials, upgrading EMR templates so doctors have a technology prompt, or a simple checklist that doctors can use while documenting.
  • Ensure coders are up to date on all certifications and renew any that are coming up on their expiration date.

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