ICD-10 delay prompts health leaders to rethink strategy

With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' announcement that it will delay the implementation deadline for healthcare organizations to convert to the ICD-10 coding system, folks are speculating that the topic will get short shrift at next week's annual Health Information Systems Management Association in Las Vegas.

But some healthcare leaders plan to stay the course, saying that although they don't mind a little extra breathing room, they just can't afford to lose focus. After all, CMS is vague about how long it might extend the deadline. And there's certainly no guarantee that the U.S. will abandon ICD-10 completely.

Still, the delay will prompt many CIOs to review their strategies and timelines.

Drex DeFord, CIO of Seattle Children's Hospital & Research Institute and chair of the College of Healthcare Information Executives (CHIME) board and Stephen Stewart, CIO of Henry County Health Center in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, will be on hand at the HIMSS conference to discuss strategies for responding to and planning for the new timeline. They'll also offer advice on what hospitals should be doing now to prepare--regardless of what CMS does.

Both say it's important to keep working toward the transition.

"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," Stewart said in an interview with FierceHealthIT.

DeFord said he agrees. ICD-10 is coming regardless of any CMS delay, he said in an interview, adding that he's disappointed in CMS' decision to delay the ICD-10 deadline "in an environment where we were really trying to get everyone's attention and tell them to move ahead with ICD-10."

"I understand that Meaningful Use dollars are important and there are a lot of other things going on," he said. "But the bottom line--and this is how I've discussed it with my board and my executive group--is that you have to do ICD-10 or you cannot issue bills and get paid. ICD-10 must be done. Meaningful Use dollars are bonus dollars, but Meaningful Use dollars don't matter if you don't get ICD-10 done."

DeFord and Stewart be joined on FierceHealthIT's executive breakfast panel, "ICD-10 Readiness for Hospital Leaders," by Carole A. McEwan, ICD-10 migration project manager at SSM Health Care, and Roy Foster, director of regulatory compliance practice at Cerner. 

The breakfast panel, which requires special registration, takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 7 to 8:30 a.m.