I originally planned to start this founder letter with “T-minus six months and counting until ICD-10.” However, yesterday, the Senate passed HR 4302, which delays a 24% fee schedule cut, extends the therapy cap exceptions process (i.e., use of the KX modifier), and pushes the ICD-10 implementation date to next year—as in October 1, 2015. For some of you, this might elicit a sigh of relief, but those who were ready are sighing in disbelief. President Obama must still sign the bill before it goes into effect (which he is supposed to do today), but there has been no indication that he will use his veto rights.

In my opinion, this was a poor decision on the part of Congress. The ICD-9 codes that we use today were developed in 1977, which means they’re horribly outdated and thus, not suited to modern medical practice. Even so, the original compliance date has already been pushed back twice—from October 2011 to October 2013, and then once more to October 2014. Will the new 2015 deadline prove that the third time’s a charm?

Many clinics have already invested time and resources into upgrading their systems for ICD-10, contracting with vendors, and hiring consultants. Furthermore, the medical community has already spent millions of dollars in educational grants from the HITECH Act to prepare workers for the ICD-10 transition. Now, with an extra 12 months before the deadline, this training must continue for an additional year, and that’s really going to add up. For everyone who was thoroughly prepared, this delay is an unfortunate burden—a punishment for doing the right thing. For those who weren’t prepared, I’m sure the delay is welcome. If you’re part of the latter group, you might be tempted to shove ICD-10 to the back burner until next year, but procrastination is what got us into this pickle in the first place. So, if you’re one of the medical professionals who didn’t feel ready for the transition this year, consider this delay your lucky break—and a chance to do things right the second time around.

As many of you know, we’ve already released an ICD-10 testing module, which you can find and start using now within our current ICD-9 code selector. You’ll also hear from insurance companies and billing providers over these next several months regarding testing opportunities. Don’t let these catch you by surprise like previous testing weeks. Instead, take advantage of any chance you get to test your and your vendors’ readiness. While we at WebPT were always certain we’d be more-than-ready, we—and all other vendors—now have even more time to work out all the kinks, and that means you’ll have even less to worry about come transition time.

As for our full ICD-10 solution, we’ll continue working diligently to make it available to Members well in advance of the transition so they’ll have ample time to practice and get comfortable with the new code set.  That solution includes an intelligent ICD-10 coding feature that will help you choose the codes that best represent what you’ve documented in the patient record. But remember, intelligent software is only one piece of the transition puzzle. It’s still imperative that you understand the logic behind the new code set and the implications ICD-10 will have on your practice. If you go into the transition blind, it will be much more difficult to right the ship if something goes awry. So, between now and October 1, 2015, make sure you and your practice take the steps necessary to ensure everyone—from your front office staff to your clinic director—understands ICD-10 inside and out. No excuses this time.

In the spirit of anti-procrastination and thorough preparation, we’re dedicating this month’s blog and webinar to all things ICD-10, including how to design and implement a transition plan, how to find the codes you’ll use most often, and how to ensure your clinic is financially ready. We want to provide you with all this information now, so you and your practice are more than ready when the transition occurs. (Another helpful resource? ICD10forPT.com. It features even more great blog content as well as a quiz and a game.)

We’ll keep everyone in the loop about our new in-app ICD-10 features via email and on our blog. In the meantime, please reference all our resources, and if you have any questions, email me at hjannenga@webpt.com.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the entire WebPT team, I want to sincerely thank all our Members for their continued trust and loyalty. We are working tirelessly to remain your partner in compliance, documentation, and all things rehab therapy. Together, we’ve weathered so much already. ICD-10 may leave us with a bruise or two, but it won’t knock us out—especially now that we’ve got plenty of extra time to get ourselves in shape. No procrastinating this go ’round!