AHIMA to providers: Don't put brakes on ICD-10

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) warned healthcare providers not to slow down their transition to the ICD-10 diagnostic code set, despite the American Medical Association's efforts to derail the government project.

Last week, AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, in which he asked that Congress stop the implementation of ICD-10, which is scheduled for completion by Oct. 1, 2013. AHIMA noted that Congress might not accede to this request.

"If healthcare providers stop their ICD-10 planning and implementation now and wait to see if Congress will take action, they will not be ready in time for the compliance date," Dan Rode, AHIMA vice president for advocacy and policy, said in a press release.

Rode noted that the 35-year-old ICD-9 code set is unable to keep up with new medical knowledge and disease factors, "limiting health data that can be used to improve patient care."

"The move to ICD-10-CM/PCS is at the foundation of healthcare information changes underway in the United States," Rode said. "Without ICD-10 data, there will be serious gaps in our ability to extract important patient health information that will give physicians and the healthcare industry measures for quality of care, provide important public health surveillance, support modern-day research, and move to a payment system based on quality and outcomes."

The AMA letter said that the increase in the number of diagnostic codes from 14,000 to 69,000 would overburden physician practices and be very costly to implement. The AMA complained that doctors were being forced to deal with this change at the same time that they were being forced to adopt electronic health records.

AHIMA said that the AMA was not accurate in saying that physicians had to use all of the new codes. "Like we use dictionaries to find specific words, practitioners use those codes that best fit their practice," Rode said.

To learn more:
- read the AHIMA press release (.pdf)
- here's the AMA letter (.pdf)

Editor's note: FierceHealthIT is hosting a breakfast panel discussion on ICD-10 preparedness on Feb. 22 at the HIMSS conference in Las Vegas. Executives from leading healthcare organizations will share what they're doing now to ensure a smooth--and even profitable--transition to ICD-10. For more information and to register, visit the ICD-10 Readiness for Hospital IT Leaders: Lessons Learned from the Trenches website.