While physician practices are already considering alignment opportunities more than ever before, the Oct. 1 implementation deadline for ICD-10 could spur a new wave of affiliations, Paul Keckley, managing director of Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis, recently told Healthcare Finance News.
"You're doing everything you can, the deadline is real. Expect 1 out of 4 providers is not going to make the cut on Oct. 1 because they don't have capital," Keckley said. "This is going to be the August story."
And as underprepared practices find they need more resources to upgrade software and potentially add staffing to handle the new coding system, they will become ripe for business partnerships that help streamline these tasks, he predicted.
While not all experts who spoke with HFN agreed with Keckley's theory, other industry insiders have warned practices not to underestimate the extent of the work in store over the next five months. Some medical offices have the misconception, for example, that only certain departments will be affected by the change. To the contrary, it is necessary to train front-office staff, clinical staff, billers and coders, and physicians on the changes in terminology, documentation and other details of the new coding system, Pam Klugman, chief product officer of Clear Vision Information Systems, told HIT Consultant.
Klugman also clarified some mistaken notions about ICD-10–related technology. For starters, existing practice management and electronic health record systems are not necessarily going to be automatically ready to accommodate ICD-10. Practices need to converse with their vendors to prepare and test their systems prior to the switch. Moreover, she stated: "Keep in mind that the best software is still dependent upon the accuracy of what is being input.… [I]t is a good time to confirm that your billers are equipped with the latest codebooks, not just now but each year to ensure that they are using the most up-to-date codes."