by Amanda Patton, Manager, Communications, ACCC
The language delaying implementation of ICD-10 that was piggy-backed on last week’s SGR “patch” legislation caught many off guard. With months—if not years—of preparation and planning for implementing the new code set—it seems we’re back to uncertainty. ACCCBuzz asked Cindy Parman, CPC, CPC-H, RCC, to share her thoughts on the delay and next steps for cancer programs. Parman is a principal at Coding Strategies, Inc., and authors the “Compliance” column for ACCC’s journal, Oncology Issues.
ACCCBuzz: What are your thoughts on this latest delay by Congress?
Parman: First, it isn’t over until it’s over. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has not weighed in yet [at the time this post was written] on what the inclusion of ICD-10 delay language in the SGR fix legislation really means. At present, several news sources have suggested that the agency’s silence on the never-ending drama—termed by one publication as “ICD-10 Held Hostage”—could mean:
- There will be an official implementation delay until October 1, 2015, or
- CMS will establish a different mandatory/voluntary implementation scheme, or
- CMS will decide to allow those providers who want to voluntarily implement ICD-10 on October 1, 2014, to do so, or
- CMS will decide that the legislation is not valid, since there was no Federal Register announcement, no comment period, etc., and
- Other payers may decide to “go live” on October 1, 2014, regardless of the SGR patch legislation that affects only the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
ACCCBuzz: Assuming that ICD-10 implementation is delayed, what does that mean for hospitals and physician groups who have already invested in computer system upgrades, clinical documentation improvement, and coding education?
Parman: According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) in a March 31, 2014, email to its membership:
Effects of a one year delay include an estimated likely cost of $1 billion to $6.6 billion to the healthcare industry and lost opportunity costs for failing to move to a more effective code set. A cloud will also be cast over the employment prospects of more than 25,000 students who have learned to code exclusively in ICD-10 in HIM associate and baccalaureate educational programs.
ACCCBuzz: So what should oncology providers do now with respect to the ICD-10 transition?
Parman: It’s important to stay the course. Shelving the work completed so far and losing the financial investment is simply not an option! Here are some tips to help:
- Keep working on clinical documentation improvement (CDI). This is not just a project that affects ICD-10; it affects quality reporting, value-based modifiers, responses to audits and investigations, patient portals, and almost every other aspect of healthcare. Practices and facilities who have not implemented a CDI program should get the ball rolling as soon as possible. (Find out more about why you need a CDI program here.)
- Know the ICD-9-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting! The ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines include some changes to sequencing, mandatory assignment of additional diagnosis codes for tobacco and alcohol use, etc., but they are built on the same format and structure. As a compliance consultant that performs both radiation oncology and infusion center chart audits, I rarely see correct and complete ICD-9-CM diagnosis coding. If a facility or practice is completely documenting all primary, secondary, and tertiary medical conditions with ICD-9, the transition to ICD-10 will be so much easier.
- For those providers who have initiated or completed training on the ICD-10 code set, it is use it or lose it. Make certain that coding staff continues to use the ICD-10-CM code set, by dual-coding a subset of medical records, performing peer review of records coded with ICD-10, etc. Do something creative, like a weekly Lunch-and-Learn to discuss unique ICD-10 coding situations.
- For those providers who have not initiated or completed training on the ICD-10 code set, don’t wait – just do it. The whole point of any transition delay is to maximize the remaining time to complete the task. This is a larger coding classification than ICD-9-CM with variances in the verbiage and specificity of available codes. Don’t underestimate the extent of education required, and don’t wait until the last minute and assume that there will be training programs available.
- Continue to perform end-to-end testing with those payers who are ready for this. Test often with any payer that is available for testing, and set up a process for denial management. There is a potential for an increased number of denials with the implementation of ICD-10, so make sure your denial management process is efficient and accurate. Of course, the best way to manage denials is not to have any, so use this gift of time to also improve front-end processes to minimize rejections and denials.
- Facilities who have completed the computer system updates, clinical documentation improvement, and most or all of the coding education can consider “backtrack” diagnosis coding. This means that the medical coding staff reports ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes, but the software backtracks and bills the ICD-9-CM code. This is a much easier conversion process (to go from one detailed code back to a more general diagnosis code) and can be accomplished by many existing billing software engines. If this process is initiated during calendar year 2014, the actual transition to ICD-10, when it finally occurs, may be smooth and straight-forward.
ACCCBuzz: What about those who say, “Why not just wait for ICD-11?”
Parman: Have you seen ICD-11? It is built on ICD-10, so be careful what you wish for! Attempting to transition from the ICD-9 classification directly to ICD-11, and bypassing ICD-10, will create additional stress (economic, financial, and mental), especially for intermediate and small physician practices.
The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to release the ICD-11 classification somewhere between 2015 and 2017 (depending on which WHO document you read). Not only will ICD-11 incorporate all the functionality of ICD-10, it will be digital only (no paper manuals) and will link with terminologies such as SNOMED CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine – Clinical Terms) and support electronic health records and information systems. Remember that a WHO “release” as early as 2015 still means that various agencies and committees will have to meet and develop the Clinical Modification (CM) that will be used in the U.S.
ACCCBuzz: Any parting advice?
Parman: Use any implementation time resulting from a delay in ICD-10 transition to improve operations, documentation integrity, and coding skills. Never waste the gift of time!
Editor’s Note: ICD-11 release date in this post was updated 4/14/14 to reflect ambiguity in the current WHO timeline.