How the ICD-10 Delay is Impacting Physician Practices

March 23, 2012

Though CMS has yet to set a new deadline for switching over to ICD-10, practices should still prepare for the change now. This week, two experts offered practices tips on how to do this.

Practices that have cheered CMS’ decision to delay implementation of ICD-10 shouldn’t rest on their laurels. 

Although the federal agency has yet to set a new deadline for switching over to the new code set, practices that don’t continue (or start) preparing for the change could find themselves experiencing the same last-minute stress that they would have with the original Oct. 13, deadline.

A survey, conducted earlier this month during a webinar held by AAPC (formerly the American Academy of Professional Coders) and Gateway EDI, a maker of electronic claims processing and revenue management tools, shed some light on the delay’s impact.

What concerned Shelly Guffey, a former medical biller who is now manager of premiere accounts and vendor relations for Gateway EDI, is that 33 percent of medical practice reps surveyed said they hadn’t started ICD-10 planning. Another 11 percent said they are postponing preparations until a new deadline is announced.

Guffey’s number one piece of advice?

“Pretend like there is not a delay,” Guffey told Physicians Practice. “You should already be in the implementation of your training program right now.”

Her second piece of advice is to secure a line of credit in case your practice needs it.

“There’s so many changes that have happened on the provider side and payment side,” said Guffey. “CMS suggests having a line of credit ready in case one of your payers has a problem with paying. Some of these payers, their systems are going to have so many details that it’s possible you’re going to have cash flow problems.”

Christine Armstrong, principal for Deloitte Consulting LLP and one of the speakers in today’s 1 p.m. webinar “Navigating the ICD-10 Delay,” agreed there is much that physician practices can do while CMS prepares to set a new timeline.

One place to start is clinical documentation.

“That’s an area where many organizations are struggling,” Armstrong told Physicians Practice. “Make sure you have complete documentation to support not just ICD-10, but everything that’s coded today.”

Armstrong said that many practices haven’t necessarily started their most intensive training activities, because they want to have that training close to “go live” date.

“What I would say to that is ‘don’t allow a delay to stop that,’” said Armstrong. “If you spend time working on clinical documentation today, you’re going to garner benefits and it’s going to give you more time to practice for the enhancement over time.”