The ICD-10 implementation date was delayed many times in the U.S., but many signs are pointing to the latest transition date as the final one. Despite protests from a number of industry groups, Congress and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have given no indication that there will be another postponement. If this is the case, healthcare organizations around the country need to be prepared to use the updated coding system by Oct. 1, 2015.
Are physicians prepared for ICD-10?
Many medical professionals expected another delay in the ICD-10 transition date, and as a result, industry readiness has been lagging. In September 2014, the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) conducted a poll of more than 300 healthcare providers, 100 health plans companies and 80 health information technology vendors about their preparations for ICD-10.
Of the providers surveyed, only around 30 percent said they had conducted end-to-end testing and more than 50 percent did not know when they would be ready to do so. Small providers were especially likely to have uncertain timelines for ICD-10 preparations.
"I'm confident the hospitals will be ready, but I'm concerned for some of our physician partners," Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told Modern Healthcare. "The coding and documentation will be difficult for them."
What is standing in the way of preparations?
In the WEDI survey, many providers noted that staffing issues, competing priorities and electronic health record issues were among their biggest obstacles. However, the American Health Information Management Association recently conducted a similar study and received significantly different responses.
The agency conducted small focus groups with a total of 12 physicians When asked what was impeding preparations for ICD-10, the participants noted that frustration, money, time and fear were are standing in the way of their practices' readiness. The researchers found that the majority of the physicians were planning to wait and see what happens after the implementation date, instead of being proactive about preparations.
This lack of initiative on the part of physicians is concerning to many experts. Practices will likely experience reduced productivity and slower billing if they are not adequately prepared to use the new coding system. While electronic health record vendors and billing companies will help to mitigate any problems, the transition will be easier for physicians who take the time to educate themselves and ready their offices for the change.