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From the Consultant’s Corner 3/23/12

March 23, 2012 News No Comments

Now Is Not the Time to Delay Your ICD-10 Preparation

That sound you hear is an entire industry collectively groaning and sighing. Why? Because the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking steps to postpone the date when “certain health care entities” must start using the ICD-10 diagnosis and procedure code sets.

Many of those who’ve already started down the path to ICD-10 conversion are groaning in frustration over the proposed compliance delay. You may want to listen to them. The sighs of relief coming from procrastinators should be your wake-up call to keep pushing full steam ahead toward ICD-10 compliance.

It’s like when the college professor gives you an extra two weeks to finish an important term paper. The procrastinators take their feet off the gas, while the A students keep preparing diligently. The latter is exactly what your organization should be doing with regard to ICD-10.

I often compare the ICD-10 transition to pulling off a Band-Aid. It’s going to hurt no matter when you pull it off, so you might as well face the pain sooner rather than later.

Let’s face it. Balancing many priorities — including governmentally-led programs such as achieving Meaningful Use (MU) and 5010 — have been a tall order and an all-consuming task for most healthcare providers, vendors, and consultants. Simply keeping up with the various phases of MU has robbed most providers of the time and resources needed to do ICD-10 impact assessments and project plans. Many of the payers, IT vendors, and clearinghouses are likewise playing catch-up. So while a few major stakeholders have made steady progress toward ICD-10 implementation, most have not.

Lately there’s been talk of a dual track, where some organizations need to meet the original Oct. 1, 2013, deadline for ICD-10 compliance while others get an extension. In a word, that would be disastrous because it would add an extra layer of confusion. Determining which healthcare entities are using ICD-9 and which are using ICD-10 after October 2013 would be difficult at best. But that may be the situation in which we’re placed, so we need to be prepared.

If HHS does decide to grant you a few more months to get ready for ICD-10, don’t squander that time. Put it to good use by continuing to consult with your physicians, payers, and vendors. If they’re behind schedule, hold them accountable. Don’t forget that hospitals and practices have the most to lose from being behind the curve on ICD-10. There can be major disruptions to cash flow, so now’s the time to refocus and get cracking.

You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Have we done an ICD-10 impact assessment?
  • Do we have a project plan and a conversion team in place – one where the roles are clearly defined?
  • What are the budgetary requirements which need to be planned for?
  • Do our IT partners currently have the development bandwidth for ICD-10 conversion?
  • Are our payers and clearinghouses making good progress or dragging their feet?

If the ICD-10 deadline does get pushed back, that doesn’t mean you can start lounging in a hammock. Getting ready for this new coding system is a huge undertaking. Hospitals and practices that use this extra time wisely will have far fewer headaches when the real deadline arrives.

Brad Boyd is vice president of sales and marketing for
Culbert Healthcare Solutions, a professional services firm serving healthcare organizations in the areas of operations management, revenue cycle, clinical transformation, and information technology.

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