ICD-10 costs: Lower than expected?

ICD-10 implementation costs may not be as burdensome as previously thought for small physician practices, at least according to a post in this month's Journal of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

The post's authors, which include a physician manager and health information systems project managers for 3M Health Information Systems, estimate the costs for small practices--three physicians plus two other impacted staff members such as coders--to be between $1,960 and $5,900; by contrast, they point out that recent estimates by advisers used by the American Medical Association peg the costs to be between $22,560 and $105,506.

The latter estimates are so high, the authors say, partially because they are padded with other costs that impact, but are not directly related to, ICD-10 efforts, including the adoption of electronic health records.

What's more, the authors say that a combination of a more knowledgeable coding industry, paired with less expensive training materials and activities, ultimately support their estimates.

"With all the discussion of costs of ICD-10 implementation, it is easy to forget the reasons ICD-10 is critically needed," the authors write. "It is also important to recognize that there was significant medical society input into the development of ICD-10 so that the additional specificity … reflects the detail requested by the physicians."

AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, in a statement touting the figures, calls the ICD-10 conversion "highly achievable." AHIMA, of course, is a major advocate for the code switch, and heavily opposed its delay last spring.

Despite the estimates, an AHIMA survey published earlier this month of representatives from more than 450 healthcare organizations concludes that smaller entities still anticipate difficulties with the transition moving forward. Sixty-one percent of responding clinics and physician practices believe that documenting patient encounters will be harder. Additionally, 54 percent of practices believe that ICD-10 will increase the difficulty of adjudicating reimbursement claims.

To learn more:
- here's the Journal of AHIMA post (.pdf)
- check out the accompanying announcement (.pdf)

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