ICD-10 – Should we really start preparing now???

By Jillian Harrington, MHA, CPC, CPC-P, CPC-I, CCS-P

A question often heard in discussions about ICD-10 is “Why do we need to start preparing already?”  Many who work in the health care sector are wary of potential changes in the rules prior to the October 2013 compliance date.  Others are concerned about whether or not the code set will even be implemented in 2013, due to potential changes in the industry before that date.  Obviously there will also be changes in the code set itself before that date, and some feel that waiting until closer to the deadline will result in fewer changes in the code set over the time leading to implementation.

In all of these instances, the answer to that question should be “Why would you not start preparing for the ICD-10 transition now?”.  The bulk of the work in preparing for the transition to ICD-10 has little to do with the regulations and codes themselves and more to do with communication, training and change management with your organization. Also, this can be a great opportunity to put into place some changes that go hand in hand with the code sets that you may not have had time to deal with in the past.  For example, if you do not currently have a strong process for obtaining ABNs in your practice, this may be a great time to build a procedure around those requirements and provide training to involved staff on the National and Local Coverage Decisions and how to use the code sets and apply them. In the payer setting, it can be a great opportunity to go through all medical policies to make sure they are fully up-to-date, reflecting the most current technology and terminology as well as the most recent code sets. These are just two minor examples of the many policies, procedures and processes within your organization that you might be able to improve with a well organized change management project.

Another by-product of the transition to ICD-10 is the need to work closely with your vendors to ensure that any products/services you purchase from them are fully compliant with the new regulations. Given other recent changes to the HIPAA regulations surrounding Business Associates (from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009), you can create a great deal of efficiency by handling all of these changes at one time instead of each individually over time.

Right now, it may seem as if 2013 is a very long ways off.  If your preparation efforts keep getting pushed to the back burner, that compliance date will be here before you know it.  So when the question “Why do we need to start preparing for ICD-10 already?” is posed, the answer should be “Why not?”.

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