Six Critical ICD-10 Questions for Your Software Vendors

January 13, 2015

The ICD-10 deadline is only nine months away. Here are six questions to ask your software vendors immediately.

When ICD-10 was delayed until October 2015, almost everyone, appreciative for the extra time, put ICD-10 on the back burner in order to focus on the considerable challenges of meeting the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use. Unfortunately "everyone" included many software vendors.

Now that the Oct. 1 deadline is barreling down on us, many providers are wondering if their software will be ready in time. "Doctors often say, 'My EHR is taking care of me,'" said Rhonda Buckholtz, vice president of ICD-10 education and training for medical coding association AAPC. But this, she said, is a foolhardy attitude. Being proactive with your vendors is crucial to knowing that you'll be ready in time.

Robert Tennant, the Medical Group Management Association's senior policy advisor for government affairs, shared with us six concrete steps you need to take well before the Oct. 1, 2015 transition date:

1. Figure out what software will be impacted. "It's not just the practice management software, but the EHR systems, too. Anything using codes," said Tennant. Your EHR software and your practice management software may not be the same vendor, so even if your practice management software is ready to go, you need to make sure the EHR software is, too.

2. Put together a list of very specific questions for your vendor. "Don't do the obvious and just call up and ask if they'll be ready," said Tennant. "Make a list of very specific questions and send them in the form of a certified letter. Don't count on a salesperson's word that everything will be ready in time."

3. Find out if you will need new hardware. Even if you do not buy an entirely new system, the upgrades may demand more computer speed and memory. If this is the case, the sooner you know and budget it for it, the better.

4. Ask if your vendor will support both ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets for some period of time. "It's possible that October could bring a rolling date," said Tennant, "and in any case, workers' compensation claims won't use the new code set."

5. Have a contingency plan. If you don't get the reassurance you need from your vendor, you should assume the worst and start shopping around for another vendor. Don't wait too late to make this decision. "You may end up in a queue," said Tennant.

6. Be sure to find out the absolute bottom line cost. This includes training and support - and get that final cost in writing.