Healthcare News & Insights

Despite delay, providers warned not to pause ICD-10 transition

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that the dreaded deadline for implementing new ICD-10 codes will be pushed back one year. But that doesn’t mean organizations should take a year off from planning and implementation, experts say.

Healthcare organizations would have been required to use the new coding system by October 1, 2013. But HHS’s proposal will change the deadline to October 1, 2014.

Before the delay was announced, most providers were struggling to get ready. Therefore, organizations should use the extra time to catch up, rather than put their ICD-10 transitions on hold. Pausing work that’s already underway could make the transition even more difficult and expensive, warned the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) in a recent statement.

In other words, providers should avoid doing what they did last time the ICD-10 deadline was changed, when it was delayed two years from the original 2011 deadline. Despite the extra two years, as of last October, less than 10% of providers they were halfway through the ICD-10 implementation process.

AHIMA added that HHS should stick to the one-year delay, and not consider any further changes to the deadline. That would only create more confusion and lead to expensive pauses in providers’ implementation plans, said the organization.

What should organizations be doing now to prepare for the new 2014 deadline? Experts recommend this four-step plan:

  1. Plan a strategy, including a plan for dealing with reduced coder productivity as the new system is learned. Organizations may have to shift workloads, hire additional staff, outsource some work, etc.
  2. Review policies and procedures related to coding and identify which documents will need to be updated to reflect ICD-10 changes.
  3. Review payer contracts, and work with payers to update them for ICD-10. Don’t assume they’ll take care of it for you.
  4. Establish a line of credit. The ICD-10 switch will interrupt cash flow, and most lines of credit need to be in place for six months to a year before the funds are available.

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