Vendors need the extra year on ICD-10 timeline

Recently I tackled how to work with healthcare vendors to achieve ICD-10 compliance. The post was inspired by comments taking vendors to task. "We're being held 'hostage' by application vendors. We're totally dependent upon them," described the view that everything relied on healthcare vendors.

Which may sound a little extreme. But considering that healthcare providers aren't doing anything without involving existing or new vendors, a bit of hyperbole isn't out of place. Vendors need to have the tools ready.

So are the tools going to be ready?

Kerry Martin, CEO of VitalWare, says vendor readiness is looking good if you're talking about an Oct. 1, 2014, deadline. And he's in a position to know. His business surveys healthcare vendors every 60 days to assess how ready their products  -- electronic health records (EHRs), claims adjudication, physician billing, etc. -- are for ICD-10 compliance.

What if the deadline doesn't change?

"The overall readiness was not in good shape if they would have stuck with the original date," said Martin. "I think that one year gets them the time it's actually going to take to get their applications tested. I think it will give them the time to assess if there's a better way to attack this. "

Better way than what?

A lot of vendors planned to simply use general equivalency mappings (GEMs) and crosswalks to make their products ICD-10 ready, Martin said. And that was one of the major reasons that readiness was going to be rare. Martin said there were vendors who didn't understand that ICD-10 implementation was much more complex than mapping ICD-9 codes.

That wasn't the only misjudgment. Preparing for the HIPAA 5010 standard was more complicated than expected, Martin said. A lot more resources went into those products that didn't go into ICD-10 preparation.

Another problem was created by meaningful use, said Martin. The federal government created incentives for EHR adoption. Strangely enough, none of those incentives encouraged vendors and providers to have EHRs that were ICD-10 ready.

Given that the healthcare IT initiatives were more complex than originally thought -- and there was a shortage of talent to make it all happen -- the healthcare industry was marching toward the scenario that was outlined in that public comment.

Does this mean everything is going to be smooth sailing to Oct. 1, 2014? Depends if your glass is half full or half empty.

And there's a basic tenet of project management that says you can have your project done two of three ways: Good, fast or inexpensive. We want all three but that will never happen. At least with the one-year delay, healthcare vendors don't have to offer fast right now.

Carl Natale blogs regularly at

Add new comment