By now, we’re all aware that, thanks to Congress, the mandatory transition date for ICD-10 has been pushed back from October 1 of this year to at least October 1, 2015. If you were one of the many practitioners and vendors who weren’t super confident in their readiness—or were procrastinating about ICD-10 nearly as much as Congress was when it came to fixing SGR—this is your lucky break. Of course, now there’s no excuse not to be totally ICD-10 ready, as everyone has more than enough time to get all their ducks in a row. So here are the five basic steps—along with some suggested completion deadlines—you’ll need to follow over the next year and a half to ensure that you are truly ready this time around.
1. Know your deadline: Today.
The murmurs have already started regarding the new October 1, 2015, implementation date. Folks are wondering if yet another delay is inevitable; if the healthcare industry is simply destined to use ICD-9 for the long haul. Throw that notion out the window. Sure, history has shown us that this might not be the case, but it’s better to be prepared than to be blindsided. So, move forward under the assumption that October 1, 2015, really will be the absolute transition deadline. When the transition happens, you’ll be mighty thankful you and your practice were so well prepared.
2. Designate a lead (or a team): Within the next three months.
Every office has a natural-born leader. That person—or group of people—should serve as your practice’s ICD-10 champion. They’ll need to get thoroughly educated on the new diagnosis codes, so they can then pass that knowledge on to everyone else in your practice. Give them plenty of time to research the new code set and its implications so they can figure out your practice’s best plan of attack and keep everyone on track as the deadline draws nearer. This step is even more important with the extended deadline, because people tend to forget about things that they don’t see as right-this-minute-urgent.
3. Make a plan: Within the next six months.
Once your ICD-10 point-person (or team) is up-to-snuff on all things ICD-10, you’ll need to work with them to come up with a plan for your practice. As a therapist, you’ve got a wealth of experience in the goal-setting department. Put those planning skills to use as you develop a timeline for your clinic. Be sure to include specific accomplishments or milestones as well as firm deadlines for each.
4. Start training: Within the next year.
After you’ve made your plan, it’s time to dive in and start swimming. Get your whole team involved—even those who have jobs that the switch might not directly impact. That way, everybody can hold each other accountable for staying on top of deadlines. After all, it’s going to take a while for everyone to unlearn 30-odd-years’ worth of ICD-9 coding, especially because ICD-10 codes differ from ICD-9 codes in several noteworthy ways.
Even though your deadlines should be firm, you should remain flexible with your training approach. Pay attention to your staff members’ individual learning styles and adjust accordingly. There’s info out there in a variety of formats, and more resources will pop up as we move closer to 2015. Ultimately, adjust your timeline when necessary, but always adhere to it. It’ll really help ensure a smooth transition.
5. Test: Throughout next year.
One of the major places providers, payers, and vendors came up short in the lead-up to the 2014 deadline was in the testing department. There was a lot of confusion about how to test, which outlets were accepting test codes, and whether it was even worth it for providers to bother with testing. (By the way, WebPT has already released an ICD-10 testing module, which you can find and start using now within our current ICD-9 code selector.) As far as external testing goes, you’ll hear from many insurance companies and billing providers over these next several months regarding testing opportunities. Don’t brush these off or let them catch you by surprise like previous testing weeks. Instead, jump on any chance you get to test your and your vendors’ readiness between now and October 2015.
Now that we’ve nailed down a timeline for the new implementation date, hop to it! Have questions regarding ICD-10 preparation? Ask them in the comments below.