Many of us are currently experiencing March Madness – NCAA tournament, brackets, Cinderellas, etc.  Many in healthcare unfortunately may experience “October Chaos,” as the compliance deadline for the nationwide conversion to the ICD-10 family of diagnostic and procedural codes is set for October 1, 2014.  Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention recently said that there will be no more delays to the implementation of this system.  Unfortunately, some are predicting “Chaos” for the October 1st deadline/nationwide conversion rollout.

To mitigate this “chaos,” providers need to make sure they are appropriately preparing now.  While many phases/parts of the healthcare playing field have been delayed and continue to be delayed, the October 1, 2014 deadline for the ICD-10 rollout seems real. What should providers do?

1) Invest now in physician/staff training on documentation;
2) Engage in best practices discussions with other similarly situation providers;
3) Mitigate your risks and assess possible financial impact of coding errors;
4) Work with your team (physicians, payors, provider groups, vendors, consultants, and secondary data users) to ensure everyone is prepared.

Unfortunately, this process, preparation and implementation will be expensive for the physicians/providers. Fiercehealth IT reported on criticism of the rollout by the American Medical Association, which published a report concluding that ICD-10 implementation costs will be more expensive for physician providers than previously thought. My conversations with providers has unfortunately supported this proposition that costs financially and in resources are high. The study provided an update of 2008 research and predicted small practice costs will range anywhere from $56,639 to more than $226,000, and for medium-sized practices it expects costs will be between $213,364 and $824,735 for implementation.

Perhaps, as troubling as the information in this costs study is, a recent study by the Medical Group Management Association found that less than 10 percent of responding physician practices were ready for the transition to ICD-10.

In short, the deadline is coming; physician practices and providers need to act immediately.

I do note that just as I was writing this blog post, I saw that attached to the proposed SGR Fix Bill was a proposed delay in the implementation of ICD-10 until October 1, 2015.  I guess in this healthcare environment, one can never say “never.” We can hope for the delay to make sure everything is ready, but prudence dictates taking steps now to prepare.