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.
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.