Don't let vague CMS promises slow your ICD-10 momentum

Just as the conversion to ICD-10 seemed to be gaining some much-needed momentum, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services steps in and gives healthcare organizations an excuse to lose focus.

It's been hard enough over the past couple of years for healthcare CIOs to get leaders, physicians, board members and other stakeholders to take the October 2013 deadline to convert to the ICD-10 coding system seriously. And now CMS says it will "re-examine" the ICD-10 timeline."

Are you going to pin your hopes on a vaguely-worded government promise?

Leaders in the movement to convert to ICD-10 warn their peers not to make that mistake.

Drexel DeFord, current chair of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and CIO of Seattle Children's Hospital and research Institute and Henry County Health Center CIO Stephen Stewart will be part of a FierceHealthIT's exclusive ICD-10 preparedness panel at this year's HIMSS conference in Las Vegas: "ICD-10 Readiness for Hospital Leaders." (The breakfast panel requires special registration and takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 7 to 8:30 a.m.)

And DeFord and Stewart--along with the rest of the panelists--are itching to share their experience and progress in preparing their organizations for the ICD-10 conversion--CMS' announcement notwithstanding.

"I'm slightly disappointed in [CMS'] decision to put that out there in an environment where we were really trying to get everyone's attention and tell them to move ahead with ICD-10," DeFord tells FierceHealthIT. "By saying we're going to reevaluate this it's sending the signal that if you were dragging your feet on ICD-10 you're probably going to be OK--keep working on Meaningful Use.

"I hope organizations don't do that. I think ICD-10 is going to happen," he adds. "Whether it happens exactly on that date or not may still be determined, but I think it requires a huge amount of time and effort and we're going to have to do it eventually. I would rather bite the bullet and get on with it."

Stewart's advice: don't bet your career that ICD-10 will be cancelled or that any CMS delay will be significant. "As pilots say, don't give up runway you can't get back. The time between now and November is time that you can be getting prepared, but if you let those months slip away you can't get them back," he says in an interview with FierceHealthIT.

"We've talked about it in our organization and we've agreed it's certainly not a gamble we want to take," Stewart continues. "If we put forth the planning efforts and the work that we're putting into it now we think we're in pretty good shape. It's going to come to pass sometime. What we've done up to this point and time will not be 100 percent wasted effort."

If you're ready to "get on with it" I hope you'll join us for our breakfast panel discussion at HIMSS on February 22.

DeFord and Stewart will be joined on the panel by Carole A. McEwan, ICD-10 migration project manager at SSM Health Care--an organization that is well ahead of the ICD-10 implementation curve--and Roy Foster, director of regulatory compliance practice at Cerner.

They'll talk about how the possibility of a CMS delay will affect organizations' ICD-10 strategies, steps organizations should be taking right now to prepare for implementation regardless of the final go-live date, how to perform readiness assessments, clinical data improvement programs and technologies to ease the ICD-10 conversion. 

To register for the breakfast, please visit the "ICD-10 Readiness for Hospital Leaders" website. We look forward to seeing you there. - Gienna

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