Managing Denials in the Wake of ICD-10

Guest post by Lindy Benton, president and CEO, Vyne.

Lindy Benton

The world of denials management is a constantly shifting landscape, one that has changed dramatically with the onset of ICD-10. Now more than ever, denials management requires an organizational focus with built-in workflows for prevention, monitoring and tracking of claims through the system.

In the years leading up to ICD-10, providers were apprehensive about the potential drain it would place on both resources and reimbursement.  CMS predicted that – with the onset of ICD-10 – denial rates would increase by 100 to 200 percent, days in A/R would grow by 20 percent to 40 percent and claims error rates would more than double. CMS warned that error rates could reach a high of 6 percent to 10 percent, significantly higher than the 3 percent average error rate with ICD-9.

Providers also feared cash flow problems stemming from coding backlogs, expected to increase by at least 20 percent because of the complexity of the new coding system. “A typical turnaround time for claims processing of 45 to 55 days could end up being extended another 10 to 20 days,” cited Healthcare Payer News.

And the change has been momentous. With ICD-10, the number of diagnostic codes increased from 13,000 ICD-9 codes to 68,000 ICD-10 codes. The new system challenges providers to document conditions more specifically, supporting codes with thorough and accurate medical documentation.

Despite the gravity of the change, many providers say it has been a smooth transition thus far, with minimal delays in productivity and reimbursement. But as the industry moves through this period of adjustment, providers must continue to seek opportunities to protect revenue and generate cash flow for a successful claims management strategy in the wake of ICD-10.

Organizational Approach

ICD-10 requires an organizational focus around the management, prevention and defense of denials. Denials management is no longer an effort reserved just for the revenue cycle but for all departments. For coding to complete a claim, pieces of information must be collected from multiple areas across the organization. For this reason, all departments should be educated on the part they play and how cross-department collaboration can aid the process.

In preparing providers for ICD-10, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) noted, “Claims denials will not strictly be a matter of clarification that can be handled by a nonclinical person in the billing office. Denials will raise questions about medical necessity or the clarity of medical documentation supporting a code; such questions will require input from a physician, nurse specialists or outside expertise.”

Workflow processes are also critical as hospitals work to achieve accurate coding and get bills out the door. Technologies that streamline hand-offs between departments can help reduce bottlenecks that often delay reimbursement. A work queue keeps denials moving, assigning and tracking accountability at each checkpoint and monitoring progress to ensure no claim falls through the cracks.

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