Is the ICD-10 deadline achievable?

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

It's a fair question, whether or not healthcare organizations can even meet the mandate on time, but that doesn't mean there's a clear answer – yet.

Given that some estimates put the overall time it takes to become fully ICD-10 compliant at between 2.5 and 4 years, rumors and speculation that it could be pushed back again, and evidence that only about 10 percent of providers have formally begun their ICD-10 projects, it's also a question worth asking.

In a webinar last week titled Getting Ready for ICD-10, Infosys chief solutions architect for healthcare and life sciences Rajiv Sabharwal, posed it to the 112 attendees.

[Related: ICD-10 and RAC, better together. See also: Top 5 HIPAA 5010, ICD-10 hurdles. See also: CMS 9 benefits of ICD-10.]

Not entirely surprisingly, a paltry 2 percent of respondents answered that they expect to achieve compliance by October 1, 2013 “easily, with time to spare.” What's more, only 10 percent placed themselves into the “achievable, but right on time,” category.

More expected was the final option, “achievable, but will need to stretch,” which garnered 39 percent of the tally. (Results do not add up to 100 percent since not every one of the attendees answered.)

HIMSS, in its most recent HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10 readiness survey of providers, determined that a mere 9 percent of respondents have initiated their ICD-10 projects, while only 12 percent of providers have formally begun the HIPAA 5010 conversion.

Of those organizations that have embarked down the ICD-10 trail, thus far by most accounts payers have been leading the charge. But making matters a bit more chaotic, last month Deloitte consultants said that a significant chunk of their clients are finding that as they move from impact assessment into actual remediation, the ICD-10 project is more complex and more expensive than they expected – so much so, in fact, that some of those payers have adjusted expectations for ICD-10 downward from strategic to pragmatic and are just looking to comply.

Infosys' Sabharwal echoed that sentiment, saying during the webinar that some organizations "are scaling back from strategic and into a hybrid approach." Hybrid meaning that they'll live with both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes, for some time after compliance day.

Attendees during the event also indicated that only 2 percent are aiming for a tactical approach, while 12 percent will live with both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes initially, but 19 percent hope to be strategic about ICD-10. Perhaps that's because, in response to another question, the largest percentage of voters said they “absolutely” see ICD-10 as an opportunity to increase the efficiency of their organization.

Now all those healthcare professionals have to do is the gargantuan task of complying by October 1, 2013. Whether the majority of providers will or won't, though, that remains a question.