ICD-10: Why the Delay is Good for Your Practice

The ICD-10 transition’s reign of fear over the healthcare world was somewhat softened a few months back once the US Department of Health and Human Services postponed the October 2013 compliance date.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) followed up the decision with an open letter to HHS, stating the delay was a perfect “middle ground” between those for and against the delay. In addition, 72% of hospital CIOs believe the delay was needed.

So we know HHS, CHIME and CIOs like the ruling. What about you? Below we outline the reasons why the ICD-10 delay is good for your practice and what you can do with an extra year.

Protect Your Cash Flow
Cash flow will slow a tad as the industry handles the implications of the transition, so the delay gives your practice additional time to fine-tune revenue cycle operations.

The truth is your practice may be well prepared for ICD-10 in most respects already, but vendors and payers may lag behind. Case in point: a number of analysts predict you can expect a spike in AR and denials once ICD-10 goes into effect in 2014.

The 5010 transition should serve as precedent here. Although it was a less convoluted move, it disrupted cash flow for health systems, and MGMA has publicly voiced its discontents with long delays in receiving payments from the Medicare and TRICARE programs.

Conversely, the ICD-10 delay gives your practice additional time to build a cash buffer through enhanced revenue cycle management, financial modeling and engaging high-volume payers to assuage any ICD-10 related disruptions.

Foster ICD-10’s Relationship with Meaningful Use
The American Medical Association (AMA) contends the ICD-10 transition will only compete with other expensive health IT transitions. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, particularly after the yearlong extension.

The additional time allows your practice to adopt ICD-10 in tandem with other such initiatives, namely Meaningful Use, which will reduce redundancy amidst health IT projects. There are several overlaps regarding requirements both initiatives share, like physician documentation.

“Meaningful Use incentive programs will assist in offsetting the costs associated with [ICD-10] compliance,” stated IT management consultancy Perficient in last year’s Implementing ICD-10 whitepaper.

According to Joe Miller, director of e-business at AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, up to 60% of the implementation cost of ICD-10 coding is already accounted for in rival initiatives like Meaningful Use.

This kind of relationship is heightened when you consider the MGMA estimates ICD-10 will cost about $84,000 for a small physician practice. Use your extra year wisely.

Readjust Work Plans
Moving the compliance date back a year gives your practice breathing room, meaning you don’t have to rush to meet a date and restrict yourself from your other tasks in the process, i.e., losing sight of enhancing patient care and perhaps poorly implementing your electronic health record system.

Consider extending your testing phase and reevaluate coder training. Since you were already prepared for an October 2013 compliance date, it may even be advisable to begin ICD-10 testing at that time, giving you a year to troubleshoot any major hold-ups in the process.

The extra year also gives you additional time to calculate how many additional coders you’ll need, as well as more time to determine how you’ll recruit them. With an estimated coder productivity reduction of 20% to 50% in the months following ICD-10 implementation, it’s probably a good idea to hedge against predicted coder shortages. An additional twelve months can help you do that.

Taking additional time to be meticulous will prepare you for the future, too. ICD-11 is looming on the horizon, and a smoother transition in 2014 means your practice will be far more adequately prepared when it’s time to implement new coding.

Will your practice benefit from the yearlong ICD-10 delay?

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Check Power Your Practice tomorrow where we focus on the opposite side of this argument. If you can’t wait until then, then feel free to express yourself using our comments section. Stay tuned!