Readers respond: Top 5 ICD-10 cost concerns

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

Which aspect of ICD-10 worries your healthcare organization the most when it comes to spending? That was the essential question we posed to ICD10Watch readers.

Many responded that “updating relevant IT systems” is the related cost of most concern. That option garnered 33 percent of the votes. That's not surprising, given that estimates for updating IT systems can soar into the dramatic – and the spending doesn't stop there.

[Related: A little-known potentially large ICD-10 loophole. See also: Coming to a mobile phone near you -- ICD-10 apps.]

The top ones, in order: updating relevant IT systems, training staff, increased documentation, replacing antiquated IT systems, and hiring new employees. Those results, based on a poll open for a little more than month and collecting 52 readers' votes, bear some explanation.

Exactly how much ICD-10 will cost is a matter of great debate and, as such, there are differing estimates out there. Of the more credible and recent is one the consultancy Nachimson Advisors assembled. Published in October of 2008, Nachimson's report puts the ticket for updating IT systems at $100,000 for large practices, a figure that includes any IT products  touching ICD-10.

The second most anxiety-inspiring area is training existing staff, collecting 25 percent of the votes. Nachimson's report suggests that education and training can cost healthcare organizations upward of $46,000, which may be why industry bodies such as the AAPC, AHIMA, and CMS are all saying that when it comes to in-depth training, timing is everything.

Increased documentation is it's own beast. As such, 17 percent of readers listed it as the top cost concern, a fact that placed it third. The AAPC considers it one of the toughest hurdles its coder-centric membership faces, and offers these 6 steps for ICD-10 documentation strategy.

Voters in our poll, meanwhile, ranked “replacing antiquated IT systems” fourth among their five leading concerns; with 15 percent indicating it as the top stressor.

Perhaps the most surprising result is that “hiring new employees” was the least concerning option at 10 percent. Indeed, as a separate reader poll ICD10Watch conducted in March determined, nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated that they will not hire any new employees for the ICD-10 conversion, almost half don't know yet, only 15 percent voted with certainty that they will bring on new ICD-10 workers – yet those statistics come amid predictions that the migration will spark demand for a 50 percent increase in staffing resources.

Editor's Note: Vote in our new reader poll, please! Will you use mobile phone apps to look up ICD-10 codes? We'll report the results and what they mean.