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Despite delays, ICD-10 demands superior technology now. Here's how to know if your vendor is your partner or an obstacle as the transition nears.
ICD-10 is a lightning rod for many of the slow-to-launch initiatives promising to modernize health technology. In recent weeks, I've read wearily about 10-year interoperability roadmaps from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and belabored testimony over the Medical Electronic Data Technology Enhancement for Consumers' Health (MEDTECH) Act, which, if it succeeds, would end years of regulatory uncertainty from the FDA over medical devices. So I was disheartened-though not entirely surprised-to hear that ICD-10 may be deferred yet again if powerful physician lobbies like the AMA have their way in Washington, D.C.
Policy delays are yet another variable in an already unstable landscape of rising costs, declining reimbursements, and clinical consolidation threatening the viability of many practices. As a nurse and practice manager for a small pediatric practice, ICD-10 is a policy mandate I simply can't afford to ignore. Yes, it's true that many providers are struggling with technology that isn't equipped for an Oct. 1, 2015, transition date. I feel for those providers and don't want to see them punished for the shortcomings of their laggard vendors. But rather than willfully kicking the ICD-10 can down the road, I believe that providers must prepare for the inevitable by shopping now for services that can accommodate them.
Certainly, providers have their fair share of ICD-10 preparatory work to do on their own. It's in their best interest, however, to take a long, hard look at what their vendors are offering to make the ICD-10 shift easier. Here are a few areas to think about:
Your EHR Should Know You
ICD-10 is roundly forecast to be an administrative nightmare, but it doesn't have to be. When CMS implements ICD-10, the codes which all U.S. healthcare providers use to describe diagnoses and treatment will increase overnight by from 14,000 to over 68,000. Based on your current, most commonly documented diagnoses, your EHR should know which codes you're most likely to need on come October and surface them directly into your work flow. Scrolling through a full menu of thousands of possible codes is simply untenable. EHRs which are compatible with SNOMED - a physician-friendly classification system which maps to ICD-10 - will and should provide a shorthand "crosswalk" between ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes. These product updates should be available now, so that you and your staff can begin practicing.
Your Vendor Should Curate Knowledge Just for You
Is there a resource hub full of the information you need about ICD-10? Do you have best practice configurations, which will ensure that your EHR is configured with the right clinical content based on your needs? While your vendor can't code for you, it should provide training and practice exercises to teach best practices, identify potential hot spots in your work flow, and fix problem areas before they happen.
Your EHR Should Be Prepared For a Range of Payer Compliance
Your vendor should be well underway testing payers' and clearinghouses' system flexibility and readiness to manage both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes, given that some will linger in a bilingual ICD-9/ICD-10 environment. Vendors should have the knowledge and payer roadmap to ensure that, whatever a payer's readiness or ICD-10 compliance status is, claims are being coded in a way that will not delay payment.
Your Vendor Should Guarantee Your Success
Unlike like meaningful use certification, government mandated for all EHRs, there is no comparable test for ICD-10. It's imperative that vendors guarantee their ability to create ICD-10-compliant claims and orders to HIPAA-covered entities. If it can't, it should pledge to waive your fee. Those vendors which recommend taking out a line of credit to ease revenue cycle hiccups aren't true partners.
In the ICD-10 echo chamber, providers shouldn't be paying attention to policymakers or pundits, but to their vendors. Good technology should insulate them from the revenue cycle disruption, delayed reimbursements, incorrect documentation, and clinical work flow issues ICD-10 threatens. EHRs, practice management services, analytics tools, clinical data exchange services, clearinghouses, and payers all need to be held to account for providers' success, failure, or pain along the way.
Vendors should be taking measure, and even competing with one another, to be among the most stalwart partners for physicians as they prepare for the seismic shift about to occur in clinical documentation. ICD-10 was never meant to be the province of the provider alone. The administrative burden is potentially mammoth. Does your vendor make the cut?
Donna Masucci, RN, is office manager for Peter E Masucci, MD, PC, based in Everett, Mass. and an athenahealth client.