AMA: Freeze ICD-10 in carbonite!

by Healthcare IT News

It's no secret. The American Medical Association is not the biggest fan of ICD-10. And a recent speech by the AMA's chief has pitted the nation's largest physician association against a coalition of 19 industry stakeholders pushing for no more delays in ICD-10. Big takeaways? The coalition had some words for the AMA. 


In his speech last month addressing AMA board members and delegates, Robert Wah, MD, president of the AMA, held nothing back when it came to the organization's views on the new coding system, slated to go live October 2014 (as far as we know.)


Wah, who described himself as a "big" Star Wars fan, said, "Each of the six Star Wars films has this line: 'I have a bad feeling about this.' That's a common reaction to ICD-10. If it was a droid ICD-10 would serve Darth Vader."


[See also: 8 zaniest ICD-10 codes.]


ICD-10 represents a huge cost to healthcare organizations nationwide, Wah continued, but there is no knowledge on whether it will actually improve patient care.


He made it clear. The association has no interest in ICD-10: "For more than a decade, the AMA kept ICD-10 at bay – and we want to freeze it in carbonite!"


The Coalition for ICD-10 – which includes industry groups like AHIMA, AHA, CHIME and HFMA – was not happy with Wah's remarks. His "attempt at humor is unfortunate," the coalition wrote in a Dec. 4 blog post, "because the quality and precision of our national health care data is a serious matter."


The switch from ICD-9's 13,000 diagnosis codes to ICD-10's 68,000 is long overdue, they said, as the coded data is used for everything from coverage and payment decisions to quality assessment. And it's far time that the industry stops relying on an "outdated 1970s-era coding system for reporting diagnoses and inpatient hospital procedures."


[See also: ICD-10 'war' continues.]

In his Nov. 8 speech, AMA's Wah also poked fun at some of the more detailed ICD-10 codes: "Sucked into a jet engine? Burned by flaming water skis? Yes, there are codes for that."


The coalition shot back. "Dr. Wah complains about the number of codes and the detail in ICD-10 but fails to mention that much of the additional specificity in ICD-10 was at the request of medical specialty societies," they wrote. 


Also, as they explained further, in ICD-9, there's no code for reporting and tracking Ebola; there's no codes pertaining to sports-related concussions for athletes. The list goes on. 


And sure, there are hefty costs associated with ICD-10, just like Wah pointed out in his speech, the coalition admitted, but the healthcare industry has already incurred the majority of those costs."These are sunk costs which will be lost if ICD-10 is not implemented," they wrote, citing a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate projecting that forgoing ICD-10 would represent a loss of a potential $22 billion. "How can we as a nation assess hospital outcomes, pay fairly, ensure accurate performance reports and embrace value-based care if our coded data doesn't provide such basic information?"