Feds outline new ICD-10 testing plan

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, piggybacking on its announcement Thursday finalizing Oct. 1, 2015, as the new ICD-10 deadline, has outlined a "comprehensive four-pronged approach" to helping providers prepare for the transition.

The plan, according to CMS, will include:

  • Internal testing by CMS of its claims processing systems
  • Provider-initiated Beta testing tools
  • Acknowledgement testing
  • End-to-end testing

For the end-to-end efforts, CMS says approximately 2,550 volunteer providers will have three separate opportunities for testing. The goal of testing, officials say, will be to determine that providers can successfully submit claims with ICD-10 codes to the Medicare fee-for-service claims systems; to demonstrate that CMS software changes in support of ICD-10 will result in "appropriately adjudicated claims;" and to ensure that accurate remittance advice is produced.

More information on volunteer registration is forthcoming, according to CMS.

Despite the announcement of an official deadline, a sense of skepticism and cautiousness seems to loom over the healthcare industry.

For instance, Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, tells FierceHealthIT that while CHIME is pleased with the new deadline, the industry should have reamined vigilant prior to the most recent delay in April.

"Because we thought we were so close to the finish line, we let our guard down a little bit and it got wrangled into something it probably never should have been brought into," Branzell says. "I think as we move on to this new deadline, we will keep our guard up and keep our advocacy actions in place to ensure that we don't do what we did last time. That cost a lot of people jobs and led to a lot of extra money and effort being spent."

What's more, hospital CIOs on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board say they feel as if they've been down this road one too many times before.

"Why do I feel like Snoopy in a Charlie Brown cartoon hearing 'Want, wa, want wa, want-wa, want-wa?'" Todd Richardson (pictured left), senior vice president and CIO at Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus Inc., tells FierceHealthIT in an email. "At this point, I really don't have any feelings. We continue to go down the path set after the last delay and will be prepared for Oct. 1, 2015."

Roger Neal, vice president and CIO of Duncan (Oklahoma) Regional Hospital, adds that he doesn't have confidence in anything being set as "final" anymore.

"I've been burned too many times over the past few years," Neal (pictured right) tells FierceHealthIT. "We were ready last time and wasted a ton of money when the final deadline got moved ... this time [we] will limit our cash exposure so we don't waste another million plus."

David Holland (pictured left), vice president and CIO at Southern Illinois Healthcare, says that his biggest concern going forward will be the coordinated efforts of everyone in the industry to comply within a short timeframe.

"We hope the time where we have to work in both ICD-9 and ICD-10 environments is short," he tells FierceHealthIT.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association have additional concerns they say won't be alleviated with extra time.

"The AMA has long considered ICD-10 to be a massive unfunded mandate that comes at a time when physicians are trying to meet several other federal technology requirements, and risk penalties if they fail to do so," AMA President-elect Steven Stack says in an email statement to FierceHealthIT. "The transition to ICD-10 might also have unintended consequences on quality measurement data, which could lead to CMS being unable to accurately calculate results, and potentially pose unnecessary penalties to physicians."

Adds Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor for MGMA, in an email to FierceHealthIT: "If testing does not go well, we remain concerned that cash flow could be interrupted following the compliance date."

To learn more:
- here's the CMS announcement (.pdf)