Decision to delay ICD-10 received with mixed feelings from physicians

Read why providers should act now and not stall their ICD-10 implementation plans just because the deadline was extended another year.

The decision to delay the ICD-10 deadline another year -- signed into law as part of the bill H.R. 4302 -- has drawn varied reactions from the healthcare industry. The bill, also known as the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, also contained temporary relief for the sustainable growth rate formula that would have caused physicians to see significant cuts to their Medicare reimbursements.

The ruling to delay ICD-10 was welcomed by some and disappointing for others. To those with whom I spoke who are involved with the ICD-10 initiative in one of Charlotte, N.C.'s largest health systems, the delay means that the current project outline and the timelines for all other tasks must be adjusted. While it will be helpful for many to have some additional time to test and address any issues that crop up, some are not confident the delay will provide any value to those who planned ahead.

One reality remains unchanged and that's what ICD-10 means to physicians. The next code set size, whether it is ICD-10 or ICD-11, will be a much larger set of codes than the current version. For many, the thought of going from 18,000 to 155,000 disease conditions and diagnosis codes is overwhelming. As I've advised physicians with whom I work in North Carolina, there are a few steps that must be taken to plan and prepare for the transition.

  • Focus on your clinical documentation, as it will play an important role when coding in ICD-10
  • Check and see if EHR and billing software is ICD-10 ready and has been successfully tested
  • Follow the implementation plan outlined for your specific practice or specialty
  • Ensure all billing systems, payers and clearinghouses are ready
  • Train your staff and perform end-to-end testing to confirm there are no issues

While the extension gives physicians and healthcare professionals an extra year before they must upgrade to ICD-10, organizations should not wait to begin or continue their preparations. Doing so will likely offer a better result for many, including those who encountered issues as they neared the previous deadline.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
 editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in May 2014
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