3 recommendations for smoothing ICD-10 transition wrinkles

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While many providers continue to struggle in transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10, that has not been the case for clinicians at St. Luke's University Health Network (pictured), a six-hospital system based in Bethlehem, Pa. According to Cheryl Davidson, network manager for compliant documentation management for St. Luke's, taking a proactive approach to the transition has paid major dividends in ensuring that providers will be ready by the Oct. 1, 2014 deadline.

"We haven't experienced any pushback from any of our doctors," Davidson told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview. "They've actually been quite receptive."

In talking about that success, Davidson made several suggestions for smoothing out ICD-10 implementation wrinkles that can apply to almost any facility. In particular, Davidson recommended that:

  • Internal coding staff education be prioritized: Davidson called getting her team of documentation specialists up to speed "fundamental" to ensuring the rest of the organization is trained properly. "They're the ones who are out there in the trenches doing the work," she said. "I can stand up in meetings and say this is coming and show PowerPoint presentations, and that's all well and good. But when you're actually out there talking to a physician one-on-one, you need to really understand what you're telling them for them to understand the process, as well."
  • Executives be proactive about the change: ICD-10 is coming, whether providers like it or not. To that end, Davidson said, embracing the inevitability makes for a much easier process. "At St. Luke's, I've had calls from physician leaders asking me to come to specific meeting to talk about the expectations," she said "Having that buy-in is really important."
  • Education start off broad, and then get more complex: Diving right into all of the changes would only serve to confuse and aggravate clinicians, Davidson said. Her approach was to first hold a series of general overview meetings that focused on practical strategic actions, and then to train clinicians on one diagnosis change per month to make those concepts reality. "We're showing doctors what some of the transitions will look like so they get an idea of what they're in for," she said. "Closer to next spring, we'll be starting more intense training sessions."

Davidson called her team of documentation specialists the liaisons between the coding department and the medical staff.

"It's our job to teach the art of clinical documentation," she said. "But everyone needs to be on board."

The American Hospital Association and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association recently assured Congress that their members will be ready by the implementation deadline. Out of roughly 750 hospitals polled by AHA, 94 percent indicated that they would meet the Oct. 1, 2014, deadline.

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