ICD-10 delays: Like a game of 'Red Light, Green Light'

With all of its starting and stopping, the transition to ICD-10 is beginning to resemble the children's game "Red Light, Green Light," Brett LeFevre, an associate at Salt Lake City-based healthcare consulting firm Leavitt Partners, writes in a recent post to the Health Affairs blog.

Many healthcare organizations, LeFevre says, likely are feeling disoriented by the latest delay, which was inserted into a bill in late March to implement a 12-month patch to the sustainable growth rate payment formula. The bill--the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014--was signed into law by President Obama on April 1.

While some groups, like physician group practices, were grateful for the latest delay, according to LeFevre, others seemingly were blindsided by the news. It's the second postponement in nearly two years.

"IT vendors, hospitals, payers and various industry lobbying groups feel that invested time, money and progress will be wasted with another pushback of the new code set," LeFevre says. "Budgets, contracts and other strategic initiatives will need to be adjusted and assessed in order to move forward."

Durham, North Carolina-based practice management consultant Mary Pat Whaley, in a recent blog post of her own, calls on physicians to "forget about" ICD-10 until it's necessary to make the transition.

"Dual coding [double work] for the next 17 months? I don't think so," Whaley says. "Professional coding organizations and ICD-10 software vendors may not agree, but medical practices should put ICD-10 to one side and deal with many more pressing issues."

Her advice runs contrary to that of the American Health Information Management Association, which stresses continued testing and training to maintain momentum.

Rhonda Buckholtz, vice president of ICD-10 education and training with AAPC, a professional certification organization, says in a post this week on ICD10monitor.com that the coding industry is "much more ready" than prior indications surmised. She says that, according to recent studies conducted by AACP, preparation costs are less expensive than what has been claimed by other sources.

To learn more:
- here's the Health Affairs blog post
- check out Whaley's post
- here's Buckholtz's post