Firm deadline fails to alleviate physicians' ICD-10 concerns

With the ICD-10 compliance deadline now confirmed for Oct. 1, 2014, medical practices are looking to that date with a great deal of concern. In fact, 73 percent of respondents to a nationwide survey conducted by Nuesoft Technologies anticipate ICD-10 significantly affecting their practice, financially or operationally.

The survey report said physicians and medical personnel are girding themselves for what many officials perceive to be a complex labyrinth of documentation as ICD-10 expands the number of diagnosis and procedural codes from 17,000 (in ICD-9) to some 155,000.

[See also: ICD-10 compliance date delay confirmed.]

“It’s not the number,” said Barry Blumenfeld, CIO of Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. The addition of coding, he added, “makes things very complicated for physicians choosing codes and will require a lot of training and a lot of insight into how these codes are different.”

Some officials expect the transition to ICD-10 to be one of the most significant changes the physician practice community has ever undertaken. The more detailed level of specificity required by ICD-10 will impact areas of practice management processes, including documentation, billing, workflow and quality reporting, according to the survey.

[See also: ICD-10 tips for the ICD-tender physician .]

In addition, many practice software systems will need to be upgraded, and physicians and responsible staff will need training to successfully make the transition.

“Most physicians are dreading the change to ICD-10 because the number of codes and level of specificity will increase exponentially,” said Barbara Dunn, president of MedRecovery Solutions, Inc., a billing firm that works with practices throughout the country to optimize operations through appropriate coding and billing.

Julie Nobles, president of Premiere Medical Billing, echoed Dunn’s concern. “Most physicians I have spoken with are worried about the rollout of ICD-10 because they are not certain the increased costs and staff hours justify the change to a new and larger set of diagnostic codes.”

[See also: ICD-10 upgrade: what to expect from vendors.]

Yet, for some physicians, the impending transition is being taken in stride. According to Robert Goldman, MD, the founding physician of Georgia Hormones, with the proper training, the transition to ICD-10 will be doable.

“We wanted to stay ahead of the curve so the transition to ICD-10 would be as streamlined as possible," said Goldman. "Our practice coding specialist, as well as all of our physicians, finished a course this year all about ICD-10 and the new diagnosis codes. Even though the list of codes will be the size of ten Manhattan phone books, we are prepared. In fact, Europe has been using ICD-10 codes successfully since 2002.”

The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) has stressed that ICD-10 will provide more specific data than the 30-year-old ICD-9 and better reflect current medical practices. CMS indicated that the added detail embedded within ICD-10 codes will inform health care providers and health plans of patient incidence and history, which will improve the effectiveness of case management and care coordination functions.

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