Report estimates lower costs for ICD-10 implementation

ICD-10 implementation costs for small physician practices are significantly lower than estimates touted by the American Medical Association this time last year, according to survey results published this week in the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association.

For the survey, 276 individuals representing practices with six or fewer providers responded to questions about total ICD-10 expenditures, "including costs already incurred and costs remaining to be expended." For practices with a single provider, the average cost for implementation was $4,372. For practices with six providers, average ICD-10 expenditures were $11,028 total ($1,838 per provider).

Authors of the survey included Karen Blanchette, association director for the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management; Richard Averill, director of public policy for 3M Health Information Systems; and Sue Bowman, senior director of coding policy and compliance for AHIMA. Averill helped author a report published last November that reached a similar conclusion about ICD-10 costs for small physician practices.

"These results represent the most comprehensive and current data on the ICD-10 implementation costs actually being incurred in small physician practices," the authors wrote. "There are now three studies documenting that ICD-10 implementation costs in small physician practices are dramatically lower than originally reported in the widely publicized AMA-funded study. Based on this survey and the other two recent studies, the financial barriers to ICD-10 are significantly less than originally projected."

Stanley Nachimson, head of Nachimson Advisors, which published the AMA-funded report, expressed concerns about the new report in a phone call with FierceHealthIT. For starters, he said, the report lacked details about the survey questions asked to providers.

"It was primarily a report of the results of the survey," Nachimson said. "Without seeing the survey questions PAHCOM asked, it's hard to do a comparison [between surveys]."

Nachimson also pointed out that no dollar equivalent of the provider's time was included in the cost figures suggested in the new report. Additionally, he said, one of the key items included in his study was that of the system upgrades necessary for electronic medical records and practice management systems. Pre- and post-implementation costs also were included in Nachimson's study, he said.

"They seem to say in their comments that many of the vendors provided those upgrades for free," Nachimson said. "That differs from some of the information I received for my study, where only about one-third of the provider practices said they received free upgrades; the rest had to pay for those. If there's no cost for system upgrades, than the overall costs for practices are quite a bit lower. But for those practices that had to pay for system upgrades, that's one of the more expensive areas."

The new report's authors say the lower costs they share may be due, in part, to "vendor response" to ICD-10 implementation.

"ICD-10 educational materials are now readily available for a nominal cost," the report's authors say. "Practice specialty-specific superbills can be downloaded at no cost from the Internet."

To learn more:
- read the whitepaper (.pdf)