ICD-10 Delay Causes Relief, Concern

Earlier this year, payers and providers were scrambling to figure out how to transition from ICD-9 codes to the new ICD-10 system by the original deadline of October 1, 2013. Considering the amount of time and resources necessary to complete such a massive transition, there was no surprise when droves of organizations and key stakeholders voiced concerns about their ability to meet the deadline.

Earlier this year, payers and providers were scrambling to figure out how to transition from ICD-9 codes to the new ICD-10 system by the original deadline of October 1, 2013. Considering the amount of time and resources necessary to complete such a massive transition, there was no surprise when droves of organizations and key stakeholders voiced concerns about their ability to meet the deadline.

The good news is that those concerns did not fall on deaf ears, as the federal government has finalized a one-year delay in the compliance deadline for the nationwide conversion to ICD-10 code sets. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement saying that the additional time should allow healthcare organizations—particularly smaller organization with less resources—adequate time to get ready for the transition. The bad news is that the delay “doesn’t leave a lot of time for healthcare organizations to meet the mandate, particularly those who have not yet even started the conversion.” Then, of course, there are those that have spent a considerable amount of time and money to prepare for 2013 implementation, only to have to worry about spending additional time and money to rework their plan into a new timeline.

Rhonda Butler of Healthcare Finance News points out that, while there are “grand plans” to reform healthcare, the industry seems to be getting ahead of itself.

There are some grand visions for healthcare reform in this country, and many of them aspire to use the power of electronic health records to make the US healthcare system smarter and better, and to help it stay solvent. Superb. Let’s do it. Let’s get an electronic health record in place everywhere, and let’s use the latest completed version of the ICD classification system until the industry has proven it is capable of moving to something more sophisticated.

It’s a point worth noting because the efforts to reform all aspects of healthcare at the exact same time are like trying to change the wheels on a moving truck. There are only so many hours in the day for healthcare professionals to ponder how to achieve meaningful use and implement a plan for the next system of ICD codes while also tending to a full time job. And, those reforms are just the tip of the iceberg. Nonetheless, the goal for upgrading the 30-year-old ICD-9 system is an admirable one, and one that seeks to improve a “classification system used extensively in healthcare for reimbursement transactions, quality initiatives, epidemiological tracking, and clinical research.”

While many organizations—particularly smaller groups and businesses—are relieved by the additional time given to transition to ICD-10, there are also some organizations that are concerned about the new timeline. Healthcare IT News recently gave some examples of organizations with opposing viewpoints on the delay. College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) President and CEO Rich Correll applauded the HHS for “quickly and decisively signaling” a commitment to ICD-10 conversion and urged the Department “to develop a clear path forward, with benchmarks, so that healthcare industry stakeholders can make the conversion in 2014.” Conversely, Susan Turney, MD, President and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), released the following statement:

Despite the additional year for ICD-10 implementation, MGMA remains concerned that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated this new code set without having undertaken the necessary due diligence to ensure it will not create debilitating cash flow disruptions for physician practice…We urge CMS to significantly escalate its implementation efforts by pilot testing ICD-10, ensuring health plan, clearinghouse, and vendor readiness, and developing comprehensive educational resources.”

Will all the efforts be worthwhile? Only time will tell. For better or worse, now there’s just more time.

Around the Web

One-year delay on ICD-10 to October 2014 finalized [Modern Healthcare News]

Even with the new deadline, 'time is running out' on ICD-10 [Healthcare Payer News]

ICD-10: Taking the next step [Healthcare Finance News]

Groups express support, concern over ICD-10 delay [Healthcare IT News]