What to do about the ICD-10 delay

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

Now that medical practices have been legislated a reprieve from ICD-10 implementation, they need to decide what to do next.

This is not a 12-month snooze button. There are steps they can take to help themselves.

Stretch out the timeline

A 12-month delay in the deadline does not mean medical practices should put off their ICD-10 plans for 12 months. Instead, resources should be allocated over the next 17 months. This gives everyone a chance to schedule upgrades, fix problems and learn new systems.

Most importantly, it's a chance to spread out the ICD-10 costs.

Many experts advised medical practices to save up to six months of operating cash in case reimbursements become interrupted after implementation.

How realistic is that in the same year as major technology purchases?

Improve workflow

There are steps that medical practices can take to improve efficiency now that pave the way for ICD-10 coding

  1. Improve clinical documentation
  2. Optimize the revenue cycle
  3. Track key metrics

These steps can improve cash flow for medical practices now while using ICD-9 codes. That will generate much needed cash and strengthen the business for rough times during the ICD-10 transition.

Practice makes practices stronger

This is really key for medical practices that already have invested time and money in ICD-10 training. Assuming that they won't be able to submit ICD-10 claims until Oct. 1, 2015, they need to keep ICD-10 coding skills and documentation practices sharp.

Dual coding will have benefits now:

  1. Stronger documentation will lead to stronger ICD-9 claims.
  2. Medical coders will gain valuable experience and skill with ICD-10 codes. (Remember all the  mistakes made during the National Pilot Program.)
  3. The ICD-10 data can be used to establish metrics that can be compared after Oct. 1, 2015.

Think twice about crosswalks

Faced with less than six months to accomplish ICD-10 implementation, medical practices could be tempted by crosswalks and translation programs. Probably not the best way to do it but better choices were less available.

Now medical practices have a chance to re-evaluate the need for shortcuts and crosswalks. The extra time should give medical practices and vendors time to explore real coding solutions.