Enough with the ICD-10 procrastination

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Over the past three months, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services could not have made its intentions regarding the transition to ICD-10 more clear: there will be no second delay.

Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner has reiterated that twice--first in early February in letters sent to the American Health Information Management Association and the American Medical Association, respectively, and again at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in New Orleans in March.

And just last week, Denise Buenning, deputy director of the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services, echoed Tavenner's sentiments at AHIMA's ICD-10 CM/PCS and Computer-assisted coding Summit in Baltimore.

Still, survey after survey indicates that providers are continuing to drag their feet when it comes to beginning the process of implementation.

Why the continued procrastination?

I understand that the transition won't be easy: providers, payers and vendors will have to learn upward of 50,000 new medical diagnosis codes and 70,000 new procedure codes. Marc Probst, CIO at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, recently called ICD-10 a "massive" undertaking.

In the end, however, ICD-10 is expected to reduce provider overhead costs long term by minimizing the need for prior authorization episodes. It's also expected that provider accuracy will increase, which should lead to a decrease in wasted resources.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) recently railed against such specificity at a House meeting, citing nine different codes that reflect injury inflicted by a turkey. "It's red tape," Poe said. "It's bureaucracy, and this is what happens when clueless big government here in Washington starts telling people out in the workplace, doctors and patients, what they must do and when government intrudes into our lives with more regulations."

But isn't it time for an update to a 30-year-old coding system?

Brent Grimes, administrative director of patient account services at Integris Health, an integrated system with four hospitals close to Oklahoma City, recently told FierceHealthFinance that despite concerns regarding payers and clearinghouses, his organization is continuing on with the implementation.

"We were far from perfect with ICD-9," Grimes said. "Documentation is critical."

Likewise, Probst said his organization is pushing forward, full steam ahead. He said that he thinks his Intermountain will have made the transition before some of its vendors.

That tells me that rather than running away and hiding, Grimes and Probst are ensuring that their organizations--one way or the other--will be prepared come Oct. 1, 2014.

I wonder how different some of those surveys would look if every provider had a similar mindset. - Dan @FierceHealthIT

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