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ICD-10 planning prepares providers for successful transition

ICD-10 implementation requires constant vigilance by a watchful project manager. Here's the blueprint for accomplishing just that.

It's crunch time for ICD-10 implementations. With the compliance deadline set for October 2014, providers have less than a year to complete the transition within their organizations. Given this tight timeline, most should have at least started planning their projects by now. Thoughtful ICD-10 planning, and executing those plans, will likely be the difference between a successful transition and missing the deadline.

Monitoring the transition progress from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is key, said Paresh Shah, president of healthcare consulting firm MindLeaf Technologies, in a webinar hosted by the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium. While this may sound obvious, he said, there are some places where organizations tend to lose sight of targets.

There's no way one person can handle the complexity of meaningful use implementation while at the same time leading an ICD-10 transition.

For example, he said, many providers will use cost-performance estimates to track the progress of an ICD-10 conversion project, breaking down its budget by quarter and declaring it on-track if it's on budget. Shah said this view can be misleading; sometimes a project uses up its budget targets within the appropriate timeframe, but it doesn't necessarily assure that everything that should have been completed actually was. For example, specific deliverables may be only 50% complete. In this scenario, while the budget may say the project is on track, it's actually behind schedule and over budget.

The key to keeping everything on track, Shah said, is to appoint a capable project manager. Many providers have assumed that ICD-10 implementation leads should be someone with experience leading a technical initiative, and sometimes use the same person who led their EHR implementation.

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But Shah said that since the meaningful use program is still evolving, EHR project managers will have ongoing, evolving responsibilities related to that program for years. There's no way one person can handle the complexity of a meaningful use project while at the same time leading an ICD-10 transition, he said. Shah recommended finding a different, equally qualified individual to head up the ICD-10 implementation.

With the compliance deadline less than a year away many providers may have already made many of these decisions. But Shah's main point was that, with such a complex project, it is likely that some pieces will start to slip over time. It is reasonable to periodically revisit ICD-10 planning to make sure everything is still on track, and keep the project manager accountable for it.

Ed Burns is site editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter: @EdBurnsTT.

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