So, ICD-10 has been delayed. But just because the government is dragging its feet, doesn’t mean you should, too. In fact, it’s imperative that you don’t. According to Avery Hurt in this article, “...if you are smart and well-prepared, you can not only survive the transition, but benefit from fairer reimbursement in the long run.” Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to begin ICD-10 preparation:
1. It’s coming.
Yes, this is the third time ICD-10 has been delayed. And although some of you may be hoping that ICD-10 is put off indefinitely, ICD-9 can no longer hold its own. For starters, it’s more than 30 years old, completely outdated, and no longer reflects modern healthcare. “Never in US history have we used the same version of the ICD codes for 35 years,” Richard Averill, senior vice president and research director of 3M Health Information, said. “The Congressional vote to delay ICD-10 puts US health care years behind the rest of the world, which has been using ICD-10 coded data for more than a decade.” According to Jon Lindekugel, the president of 3M Health Information Systems, “The vote to delay ICD-10 is a vote for the past, not the future of health care. If we are to improve patient outcomes and safety, enable modern-day research, promote innovations in healthcare delivery, and achieve cost-saving efficiencies, the healthcare industry must have access to higher quality information afforded by ICD-10 coded data.” So, regardless of whether ICD-10 arrives on October 1, 2015—or some other date—eventually, we will be transitioning. It only makes sense, and the sooner we prepare, the better off we’ll be.
2. There’s work to be done.
Speaking of preparation, there’s a lot to do to feel comfortable with the new code set, including learning the new coding structure, training your staff, and conducting testing both internally and externally. According to Asia Blunt, practice management strategist at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), you also should develop a plan for how you’re going to address claim denials. Hurt paraphrases Blunt’s advice here: “When a claim is denied, and many will be at first, locating the problem—asking if it is a coder issue or a payer issue, for example—can make it easier to correct problems and prevent future denials. It's always a bad idea to not follow-through on denied claims, but that could be disastrous following the ICD-10 transition.”
3. There’s money on the line.
In the same article, Hurt quotes Blunt as saying that while “fears of bankruptcy might be extreme...this transition could have a significant impact on finances.” The AAFP recommends that providers have at least three months’ worth of extra cash revenue available—and that’s on the low end. Some experts recommend having at least six months’ worth on hand. If you can’t save that much, Heidi Jannenga suggests “having a plan B, such as a line of credit or supplemental income to ensure your clinic's viability during the transition.” She cautions not to wait too long, though, because “you’ll have to vie for financing and pay higher interest rates.” Just another reason why you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to begin ICD-10 preparations. “Ideally, of course, you won’t need that much extra cash,” writes Hurt. “Thorough preparation is the key to sailing through this transition with your finances in good shape.”
How are you handling the delay? Are you continuing with your ICD-10 preparation plans or have you moved them to the back burner? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.