Is ICD-10 compliance still in reach?

As the October deadline for ICD-10 implementation nears, some providers might be concerned they are not prepared for the necessary code changes. There are signs that for most medical professionals and providers, this may very well be the case.

According to June 17 results of an eHealth Initiative survey that was conducted with help from the American Health Information Management Association, less than one-quarter of practices (17 percent) indicated that they had tested ICD-10 codes with payers and clearinghouses. Just 5 percent stated that they completed internal testing.

As for training, the results were a little more promising, with 41 percent stating that they had advised staff on the coding shift. Another 36 percent said that they had invested in tech upgrades to prepare for the shift. Still, there is clearly more room for improvement.

Running out of time
Health Data Management pointed out recently that as a result of the low ICD-10 attestation numbers thus far, several state medical societies, including those from California, Florida, New York and Texas, have stated that there is a "looming disaster" awaiting come October.

Although these numbers might seem bleak, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services indicated that there is still time for providers to get on board with the ICD-10 code switch.

"Certainly, there is still time to get ready," deputy director of the National Standards Group, Denesecia Green, said during a June 18 Medicare Learning Network webinar, according to Health Data Management. Green, however, gave some words of caution: "It's definitely time to transition now."

Green also broke down a transition plan for ICD-10 into five steps:

1. Creating a plan for the switch.

2. Staff training.

3. Giving your practice's workflow an update.

4. Having a discussion about ICD-10 with your vendors.

5. Conducting tests on your system's ICD-10 capabilities.

During the planning stages, Green said that it was best to run an internal report of the most frequently used codes in your practice – the top 25 should be a good place to start. During training, it is very important that every staff member – from your medical scribes to front office staff – knows where the organization stands.

There is still time for providers to prepare for ICD-10.
There is still time for providers to prepare for ICD-10.

If you are a specialist, this training becomes all the more important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of new code sets differentiate between ICD-9 and ICD-10, and many of them will pertain to specialty care. These coding changes might be significant, but as the CDC points out, the U.S. is the only industrialized country that is still using ICD-9 for morbidity data.

In many ways, this shift will not only help gather more efficient data about patients, but it will also help bring the U.S. health care system into the 21st century. ICD-10 will also be much more specific and in-depth, and many new concepts will be added that weren't previously there, such as information about blood type, alcohol levels and under-dosing.

There might be a bit of breathing room for doctors during the first two years of ICD-10 implementation, especially on the financial side of things. Congress is currently considering a two-year grace period following the switch, so physicians might not be penalized for coding errors during this time. 

Even if providers might have gotten a slow start with the ICD-10 transition, there is still time for practices to get ready for the transition this fall. One way to ease into the switch is to make sure that your electronic health system and medical software is equipped to handle these regulatory changes. While training and testing is certainly important, you will want your tech tools to be able to handle the optimization of the switch as well. 

Top things providers need to know about interoperability

It seems that interoperability is the biggest buzzword in health IT right now, and for good reason. Too much money is lost by both providers and patients due to a lack of data sharing and communication between doctors. However, with optimized medical software and implementation and standards outlined by the meaningful use program, nationwide interoperability is a goal that could actually be met in U.S. health care over the next few years.

If you're unsure about what interoperability means, or want to know how you can bring data sharing to your health system, here are some of the top facts you'll need to know:

"The U.S. could save around $30 billion annually with interoperability."

Interoperability saves big
According to an analysis by the West Health Institute, the U.S. health care system has the potential to save more than $30 billion each year with an interoperable platform. Having an electronic health record that travels with the patient not only prevents readmissions and duplicate treatments, but it also saves precious time and resources.

Congress is interested in interoperability
Another story making headlines is interoperability on Capitol Hill. For the past several months, Congress has been taking a serious look at interoperability and the way that organizations and legislation can work together to make this happen.

Cloud computing is driving interoperability
Medical devices are growing increasingly sophisticated in the health care environment, and doctors are relying on smartphones and tablets for diagnoses and treatments more than ever before. In busy medical settings, having cloud access to patient information alongside interoperable systems could make these clinical tasks even easier.

Experts have broken down five main use cases for interoperability
According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, there are five main use cases that make up an interoperable EHR. They are as follows:

1. Organizations must be able to extract patient data while still maintaining their own structured data.

2. Users must have the ability to transmit the entirety of a patient's EHR, or portions of the EHR​, to another doctor.

3. The organization's health information exchange can receive requests for copies of a patient's EHR from providers outside of their system in a standard format.

4. Providers must have the ability to move all patient data from an old EHR into a new EHR.

5. Organizations must have the tools to embed EHR data into a health care system's operating API. This increases the value of data capture and transmission.

The ONC's Interoperability Roadmap is a broad vision
Perhaps the biggest revelation about interoperability is the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's Interoperability Roadmap, which outlines a long-term, 10-year plan for the future of interoperability in the U.S. Not only does the roadmap address barriers to interoperability, but it also shows how optimized EHR systems can push interoperability toward patient-centered care over the next decade.

Interoperability has the potential to streamline the U.S. healthcare system.
Interoperability has the potential to streamline the U.S. healthcare system.

Organizations pushing for interoperability
There are several leading nonprofits you might want to be aware of that are making interoperability a priority, according to Becker's Hospital Review. Some of these include the Argonaut Project, IHE USA (which is partly responsible for ConCert, an interoperability testing program), JASON (a group of independent scientists that advises lawmakers and other government officials about health IT) and the CommonWell Health Alliance. Many of these stakeholders are some of the most influential in health IT, so it's clear that interoperability is a major goal moving forward.

As interoperability becomes more of a focus in health care, providers need to think about ways that they can promote data sharing and health information exchange. With Intelligent Medical Software, clinicians can worry less about whether the health data is accurate on the EHR, and can instead focus more on their patients and save resources.