As was argued yesterday, it’s easy to look at the HHS’ ICD-10 postponement as a welcome delay. Change is hard, right? Sometimes you need more time.
Sure. But sometimes change is necessary. Delaying the crucial (and beneficial) move to ICD-10 isn’t easing the transition process for practices – it’s adding more kinks to an already overdue conversion.
Placing Us Even Further Behind
Posing the pushback as good for practices overlooks the major downsides of continuing to rely on ICD-9 – a woefully inadequate coding methodology that should have been phased out years ago.
There’s a reason why almost all other major nations made the switch to ICD-10 over a decade ago. On its online ICD-10 FAQs section, the American Medical Association (AMA) explains the necessity of replacing ICD-9 this way:
The ICD-9 code set is over 30 years old and has become outdated. It is no longer considered usable for today’s treatment, reporting, and payment processes. It does not reflect advances in medical technology and knowledge. In addition, the format limits the ability to expand the code set and add new codes.
If the AMA – the body that lobbied hardest against the ICD-10 implementation date of October 2013 – is willing to admit that ICD-9 is “no longer considered usable” in today’s healthcare environment, you know it’s a problem.
ICD-9 is insufficient for the technological advancements of our current medical system, and having continued to rely on it so long, unlike other countries, could incur serious consequences.
“The statistics reported for diagnosis codes will be flawed since there is no compatible data to compare internationally,” states the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). “We will be capturing morbidity data using an outdated classification system, which can potentially cause problems identifying and tracking new health threats.”
Increasing Pressure of 2014
It’s true that doctors and healthcare administrators are facing a great deal of pressure to comply with the HITECH mandates and HIPAA 5010 guidelines.
The perceived need not to add an undue burden on physicians to tackle ICD-10 in addition to EHR implementation was posited by the AMA in their argument against the new code set.
But that doesn’t really hold up when you consider that although 55 percent of U.S. physicians have already adopted electronic health records, the government’s Meaningful Use program gives docs until 2014 to adopt a system.
The one-year delay for ICD-10, which places the compliance date in 2014, doesn’t alleviate a burden for doctors – it just leaves more room for medical practices to procrastinate and place greater pressure on 2014 as the year of two conversions.
Performing coordinated planning efforts for both EHR implementation and ICD-10 enactment might ease technology purchasing and budgeting concerns for some, but not all. And staff training will be a huge obstacle for practices that attempt to tackle both transitions at once.
Delayed Realization of Benefits
Many doctors believe that ICD-10 is little more than an inconvenience. To stick with the AMA’s argument, ICD-10 offers “no direct benefit to individual patients’ care.”
Except that it does. The increased specificity of ICD-10, which has 68,000 codes to ICD-9’s 13,000, will enable more effective, exact tracking of illness and injury in the U.S. patient population. In turn, practices will be capable of better managing and forecasting clinical outcomes.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has outlined additional benefits of ICD-10 that go beyond care and treatment, including the creation of more accurate reimbursement methodologies, improved monitoring of resource utilization and easier prevention and detection of healthcare fraud and abuse.
The longer HHS allows practices to delay the ICD-10 conversion, the longer it will take for the new code set’s advantages to reach patients and providers alike.
Unfortunately, despite how overdue the move to ICD-10 is, the postponement is a reality. Whether you think the wait is good or bad, here’s one tip you should embrace: start planning now to lessen the immediate upfront ICD-10 costs and prepare your practice to best reap ongoing ICD-10 benefits.
Do you think the ICD-10 delay was good or bad? Tell us why in the comments!Tweet