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ICD-10 survey: Physician practice worries 'a little too high for comfort'

With ICD-10 nearly certainly on its way in October, attitudes toward the sometimes controversial new medical coding system among many providers in small and medium-sized physician practices range from resistant to uneducated, according to a new survey  from Nuesoft Technologies, Inc. a cloud-based practice management and billing software vendor.

Nuesoft, developer of the NueMD cloud platform for medical practices, surveyed 1,000 respondents from all 50 states and in settings including small and mid-sized practices and billing companies. More than half those surveyed (564) are at practices with one to three providers.

The largest segment of those surveyed, 30%, said there should be no transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, effectively saying they don’t like the new generation coding system at all.

Some 25% said they aren’t familiar with ICD-10, which could mean they aren’t ready for the changeover in the fall and probably will have big problems handling the new codes.

Less than a quarter of the respondents, 23%, reported that they’re satisfied with ICD-10, though 6% said ICD-10 coding standards — which already represent a big expansion in the number of codes from ICD-9 — should be expanded further.

Meanwhile, 18% opined that the ICD-10 coding set should be abridged.

“Making the switch to ICD-10 will greatly improve our ability to understand medicine, but it can also introduce some serious struggles for practices while they try to maintain cash flow through the transition,” the Nuesoft survey designers wrote.

Not surprisingly, the great majority of the providers and staff who answered the survey expressed worry about the transition, with 28% highly concerned, 25% significantly concerned, and 27% moderately concerned.

Only a few were OK with the expected change – 14% said they were minimally concerned and only 6% said they weren’t concerned at all.

For the worried majority, the main areas of concern, in descending order, were:

  •  Training and education
  • Payer testing
  • Software upgrade cost
  • Claims processing
  • Compliance timelines and deadlines

Negative outlooks about ICD-10 also extended into expectations about how the transition will affect various aspects of their businesses, with 70.4% saying it would hurt operations, and 69.7% reporting it would hurt their finances.

Overall the findings were consistent with those Nuesoft found in similar surveys the last two years, though the current survey indicated a mild softening of resistance to ICD-10, the survey designers said.

“We think it’s fair to say the level of concern for ICD-10, especially among small practices, is a little too high for comfort,” they said. “We did see some small, yet positive shifts in respondents’ level of concern, but there weren’t any striking changes over the last three years.

“We know it’s tough to find the time to train and prepare for ICD-10, but every minute is worth it,” the company’s survey staff wrote.
To make the transition easier, Nuesoft is recommending that providers lean on CMS’ “Road to 10” website.