Getting serious about ICD-10: Lessons from the field

To be honest, I can't quite remember the first time I heard the term "ICD-10." But I'm confident that when I did, I dismissed it as a "coding thing" that wouldn't be of interest to my audience of CIOs and other healthcare execs.

Reporting from last year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference, I referred to ICD-10 as "semi-looming" and made jokes about putting ICD-10 on the "middle burner." I posed the riddle "What's the opposite of sexy?" and almost everyone I tried it out on answered correctly: ICD-10.

I don't think I'll be making jokes about ICD-10 at this month's HIMSS show in Las Vegas. In fact, I'm moderating a breakfast panel on ICD-10 readiness at the annual event.

I'm still no expert on the "coding thing," but luckily I'll have four of them by my side for the discussion--folks who have been taking ICD-10 seriously for a while now.

ICD-10 changes just about everything

One of our panelists, Stephen Stewart, CIO of Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, was way ahead of me--and a lot of other folks--in 2010: "I remember sitting in a presentation about ICD-10 at the 2010 CHIME Fall Forum," he wrote in a recent post for Hospitals & Health Networks. "It was a sunrise session, 7 a.m. as I recall, and as I sat there, terror began to seep into my consciousness. This was much bigger than I had ever dreamt and we had done little to prepare."

Stewart returned to work and, along with his health information management director, did a readiness assessment. "We were reassured about our capabilities--both ours and that of our partners--but that reassurance didn't last long. We were struck with the fact that this issue was not going to be resolved with technical readiness or wizardry, for that matter. This was a people issue, an awareness issue. This was a change in the way we did just about everything."

ICD-10 prep has to start yesterday

Another of the experts joining me on stage is Carole McEwan, ICD-10 project manager at SSM Health Care in St. Louis, Mo. And she has a warning for hospitals and health systems (and smart-aleck reporters, too): The October 2013 ICD-10 deadline doesn't represent a go-live target. Rather, organizations should be ready to go at least six months before that. These projects take time to "ramp up," she said at a CHIME panel on ICD-10 last fall.

Panelist Roy Foster, director of regulatory compliance practice at Cerner, agrees.

"The transition is something we've known about for some time. While we are still 21 months away, the runway looks short and, with [other programs] still on the plate, there's sure to be some anxiety around the shift," he wrote in a recent blog blog post. "This is especially true if you're not well under way in performing thorough assessments to understand how this change will impact your organization. It's not a question of if; it's a question of how much."

ICD-10 must be led by the C-suite

Panelist Drex DeFord, vice president and CIO of Seattle Children's Hospital & Research Institute and the new chair for the College of Healthcare Information Management executives (CHIME), gets that ICD-10 is, indeed, a C-suite issue.

"When I spoke to my hospital's board of trustees and my senior executive council, I said, 'We have to do ICD-10. If we don't do ICD-10, we can't get paid,'" DeFord said in an interview with FierceHealthIT last November. "Meaningful Use is like getting your bonus. ICD-10 is like doing your job, so you get your paycheck. So we've spent a lot of time and effort getting ready for ICD-10 ..."

Scrambled eggs or French toast?

So I hope you can join me and our panelists for breakfast on Wednesday morning, Feb. 22, at the Westin Casuarina in Las Vegas. We'll be talking about how to assess your own organization's readiness, as well as that of your payer and vendor partners. We'll also discuss how to choose the best platforms and technologies for your organization, how to structure ICD-10 implementation teams for maximum success and more.

It doesn't matter if your organization is large, medium or small and it doesn't matter how far along you are in your ICD-10 journey--it's not too late (or too early) to start taking ICD-10 seriously.

To learn more and to register for the event, visit our website: ICD-10 Readiness for Hospital IT Leaders: Lessons Learned from the Trenches.  

- Gienna