Care organizations and providers have just over 8 months to go before ICD-10 storms into action. Physicians, health systems, hospitals and practices are rushing to gear themselves up for the big change. But the urgency to shift to ICD-10 should not mean skipping of an important first step – awareness.

Coding and compliance experts believe physicians are not aware of the new codes and are not thinking about the consequences of their decisions. Those implementing ICD-10 in the practices need to start being more attentive to this shift as it will help them in the future. If they recognize what lies ahead, it will put them in a better position to assess what should be done to make the shift. ICD-10 requires a lot of resources to implement and practices must ensure that the investment does not go to waste.

Physicians need to know where they are going by setting ICD-10 milestones. The focus should not be just to spend money but to plan well. The margin for error is very little; any delay would be destructive. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has already pushed the implementation deadline back once and remains steadfast with the current one. It has time and again stressed that October 1, 2014 will be the time the system is implemented nationwide and no relaxations will be given.

Care providers who are not getting themselves ready for ICD-10 yet must start putting plans in place to oversee the big shift. They need to start consulting organizations which have the necessary expertise, technology and resources and can help them through the transition. In case they don’t do it, they will only find themselves even more frustrated come October 1.

Chief financial officer at MemorialCare Health System Karen Testman says her organization is budgeting for five areas related to ICD-10 implementation: computer-assisted coding, comprehensive clinical documentation improvement, HIM training, system-wide IT component and training & education. She believes the system’s early adoption will help them alleviate much of the lost staff productivity that many providers are expecting when ICD-10 goes live.

Practices must address these issues before implementing ICD-10:

  • Is my organization ready to make a smooth transition?
  • Do we have enough staff and skilled coders? How can we train coders for our practice?
  • How can productivity be least impacted during training, transition and implementation phases?
  • Will our IT department be able to handle ICD-10 transition?
  • What will be our final cost?
  • How do we manage our revenues during implementation of the new system?
  • Are our clearing houses and payers ready for the change?

The American Medical Association estimates ICD-10 implementation costs between $83,000 and $2.7 million depending on the organization size.

Implementing ICD-10 is a major challenge for care providers who are facing many other challenges simultaneously, including meeting requirements of Meaningful Use but with proper planning, communication and assessment, the impact of the new system can be minimized and the transition be made smoother than expected.


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