Guest Post: Top communication tips for successful ICD-10-CM preparation

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

Lack of communication creates major inefficiencies in any project plan. ICD-10 is overwhelming enough in itself; to throw in another major kink like miscommunication can create serious issues.

Guest post by Elizabeth MorgenrothHowever, there can be a simple fix.

Communication management is vital for any project to be successful. It is all the more important for an enormous project such as ICD-10-CM to be implemented successfully. Properly identifying and managing all communication channels not only eliminates potential issues that arise due to lack of communication or miscommunication, but it directly contributes to the project’s success.

In working with facilities for ICD-10 preparedness, I have often found that a central point of contact has not been designated. This creates mixed and misplaced messages internally throughout the facility and externally to vendors.

The role of a project manager

By now, facilities should have identified a project manager or an individual with a similar aim and role to manage planning and logistics for ICD-10 readiness. However, if your facility has not done so yet, it is not too late.

The central point of contact has big shoes to fill, engaging in significant and diverse responsibilities which are necessary to implement. The person will be handling multiple departments throughout the facility, one of which is the emergency department (ED). Preparedness for outpatient departments has different requirements than inpatient departments. In most cases, outpatient coding should include preparedness for ICD-10-CM, while the inpatient side will include preparation for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS. There is a great amount of detail that the project manager needs to understand and strategize for, as follows:

  • Plan dialogue with vendors. Sometimes I find that facilities are not even planning to have a dialogue with outside vendors as part of their project plan.
    • Internal strategy and planning session regarding the expectations and impact of vendor readiness. Everyone involved in the workflow will have an opinion and is entitled to know the message and expectations of vendors.
    • The vendor message needs to be sent out to all with whom the facility does business. These vendors can be for their electronic health records, billing software, clearing houses, payers, etc.
  • Keep open lines of communication. Inform vendors of the central point of contact. I have been in situations where two different people from the same facility contact me about the same question. Streamlining internal and external dialogue through one central point of contact at a facility is essential on this point.
  • Involve all stakeholders in dialogue. For example, when addressing the needs of the ED, facilities should communicate certain aspects such as upgrading their EHR or billing software or using clearing houses to transmit claim information to a payer. These are issues that need to be addressed with specific audiences. When I dialogue with a facility regarding ICD-10 implementation, I usually am speaking with an ED director, information system staff and sometimes healthcare information management team members – these are stakeholders that all have input and questions on the topic.
  • Involve the right people in meetings.  I may not communicate important points in certain areas as an IS expert would be able to. Think in advance who needs to be involved and present at meetings to effectively communicate crucial details of a project. Make contact with those individuals also; they may have information no one else has. If their piece of the puzzle is missing, the ICD-10 plan will not be as effective, and you end up doing extra work.

Finding the right person as point of contact

In a larger facility that has a project management team in place, it is logical for the project manager to be the designated point of contact. In smaller hospitals or other facilities without a project management team, the designated point of contact will most likely be well-suited for someone in the C-suite. The CEO will most likely be too busy for this job, so perhaps the COO may be the logical person. The HIM director is also another person whose skills and training may be right in this capacity for the workplace.

Elizabeth Morgenroth, CPC, Revenue Cycle Business Analyst at T-System, Inc., has 16 years of healthcare experience in the payer, provider and vendor areas of service. While with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, she provided coding assistance to all professional specialties statewide. Morgenroth was responsible and integral to the entire revenue cycle process for a family practice in Lawrence, Kansas with four physicians and five physician assistants. While working for Clinical Coding Solutions, she performed professional and facility coding for nearly all specialties. In her current position, she is responsible for encoder tool development and ICD-10 readiness for T-System revenue cycle solutions. Morgenroth attended the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Academy for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS and is an AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Trainer.