What’s Next for Health IT Right Now

Given the tremendous and on-going changes currently taking place in health IT, especially the recent delay in ICD-10, and the ever on-going issues surrounding meaningful use, we remain in a turbulent, yet revolutionary time in the industry. As changes continue to come and behaviors, habits, further reform is activated and enforced, there will only be more of a focus on where we are headed from a technology standpoint.

Given the multiple balls health IT leaders are currently juggling and the rapid changes they are facing from new technology and managing tools that were once thought to be saviors of the sector – patient portals come to mind – I and they are left to wonder what’s next for health IT. With that lingering question, I asked a few folks working directly in the space what they think will occupy the minds of health IT leaders for the short term.

Divan Dave, CEO, OmniMD

The delay in ICD-10 implementation was met with equal parts relief and frustration. As the healthcare IT industry is evolving, government and regulatory authorities have come up with several certifications to enhance the quality of care for patients. For example, meaningful use incentives have created an artificial market for dozens of immature EHR products. Many EHR vendors have been preoccupied with backlogged implementations and have neglected the usability and innovation of their EHR products. Most concerning to current EHR users are unmet pleas for sophisticated interfaces with other practice programs and complex connectivity, pacing with accountable care progresses and the rapid EHR adoption of mobile devices. Many popular “one size fits all” EHR products have failed to meet the needs of several medical specialties.

Distracted by the process of certifying their EHR products for Stage 2 of meaningful use, not all software vendors have been able to deliver on their Meaningful Use 2 promises to anxious providers; 40 percent of the practices are replacing their EHR systems, as their current systems are cumbersome to use, not integrated, not able to meet regulatory compliance, outdated, have interoperability challenges, inefficient customer support, lacks specialty specific workflow and are not mobile enabled.

Stacy Leidwinger
Stacy Leidwinger

Stacy Leidwinger, vice president of product marketing, RES Software
A top concern in healthcare right now is securing patient health records. Although the clinical details themselves contain little financial value, the records contain personal patient details that can easily result in stolen identity or credit card information.

In the US, nearly 3 trillion dollars per year is spent on healthcare, which translates to everyone from physicians and pharmacists to well-organized crime syndicates targeting healthcare, usually through the use of stolen patient records and identities.

Two of the weakest points in healthcare security are 1) people tending to underestimate security risks, therefore, becoming vulnerable to social engineering, and 2) the fact that endpoints can’t be physically secured in many cases while continuing to provide needed value. Patients need to take a more serious approach in choosing a healthcare organization by making it clear that they “trust” their provider.

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Blessing in the Delay: ICD-10

Keith Boyce

Guest post by Keith Boyce, vice president of business development, RxOffice.

The recent postponement of the implementation of ICD-10 is nothing but good news. Moving the deadline to next year gives providers an opportunity to conduct further research and select the software that is compliant and the least disruptive of their existing processes while keeping the best interest of the patient in mind.

ICD-10 was the first step by the Obama administration’s healthcare plan, Obamacare, which revealed the need for a universal software platform that could work in all medical areas. Some professionals say the ICD-10 and other requirements of the new healthcare plan will cause physicians to spend more time on paper work and less time with patient care. If that is the case, healthcare providers will need a system that will cut down on the amount of time needed for paperwork. With the extension in ICD-10’s implementation, now is the time to make decision about keep or modifying current systems or investing in new ones.

The new regulations proposed through Obamacare will have more of an effect on small to mid-size healthcare providers and the IT companies that cater to them. Larger IT firms are not affected as much because their clients are the hospitals and large research clinics that do not have to adhere to the requirements of ICD-10. This means that these firms are less likely to understand and provide compliant software to smaller, special medical centers, such as diabetes, mental health and podiatry to name a few.

Healthcare providers should look for systems with the following characteristics:

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Impact of the ICD-10 Delay on the Property and Casualty Sector

Michele Hibbert-Iacobacci
Michele Hibbert-Iacobacci

Guest post by Michele Hibbert-Iacobacci, CMCO, CCS-P, vice president, information management and client services, Mitchell International.

The International Classification of Diseases – 10th Revision, Clinical Modification and Procedural Coding System’s (ICD-10-CM/PCS) implementation in the United States is being delayed yet again. According to the latest polls and surveys, there are many organizations (most who need to use it) that were ready to roll with the new classification on October 1st 2014. The change came about because the Senate approved a bill (H.R. 4302) on March 31, 2014, that delays the implementation of ICD-10-CM/PCS by at least one year and then a subsequent official announcement by CMS announced a forthcoming interim final rule that would set the new compliance date for October 1, 2015.

How will this new implementation date affect Property and Casualty payers and providers? For an industry that was not required to change, P&C was ready to go – mainly because of the dependency on payments and bill processing. The question was, “Will we see ICD-9 and/or ICD-10?”

Fortunately, from a processing perspective the P&C industry was prepared for most anything. Payers were creating processing systems and/or contracting with vendors who considered all possibilities including bills submitted with both codes and the submission of ICD-9 codes well after effective dates. These payers also considered the compliance environment as most are guided at the state level.

As difficult as it may be to be ready for the effective date of ICD-10 just to have it changed, most aspects are positive for property and casualty.  Additional time for testing, communication to providers and overall education (external/internal) enhances the readiness for the new date. The negative is the cost – staff has been added and enhanced with testers, educators and coders for the initial date. Maintaining staffing levels for a longer period of time was not accounted for in most budgets. The cost will be higher to implement now and many companies did not plan on the additional timeline.

So how will this shake out moving forward? Providers will likely react by submitting ICD-10 codes to P&C payers before the implementation date of October 1, 2015.  Payers will need to make decisions on how they will handle these claims since P&C is not guided by the same rules under HIPAA as the health side. Some payers may decide to turn these claims back to providers and others will translate to ICD-9 for payment. Compliance standards, whereby a state has implemented mandates on the use of code sets that need to be addressed and/or revisited, may also impact the way payers process ICD-10 codes prior to October 1, 2015.

ICD-10 Delay: Healthcare Leaders Respond

ICD-10 has been delayed. Change has been left unchanged. The can has been kicked down the road by politicians in Washington, despite a great deal of opposition from those in healthcare. Of course, opposition to the delay seemed to matter little as it was voted upon, and passed, as part of the broader SGR patch.

Athenahealth, one of the better known vendor names in the health IT landscape issued the following statement in reaction to the news of the delay of ICD-10 for another year to October 2015. Ed Park, executive vice president and chief operating officer, athenahealth, said: “It is unfortunate that the government has once again chosen to delay ICD-10. athenahealth and its clients are/were prepared for the ICD-10 transition, and in fact we have national payer data showing that 78 percent of payers are currently proving readiness in line with the 2014 deadline. The moving goal line is a significant distraction to providers and inappropriately invokes massive additional investments of time and money for all. The issue is even more serious when considered in association with another short-term SGR fix and 2013’s meaningful use Stage 2 delay. It is alarmingly clear that healthcare is operating in an environment where there is no penalty for not being able to keep pace with necessary steps and deadlines to move health care forward. Our system is already woefully behind in embracing technology to drive information quality, data exchange, and efficiency, and delays like this only hinder us further.”

Sharp words, but appropriate. It’s nice to see a vendor come out and speak some truth, at least as they see it. Despite the somewhat shocking and seemingly inappropriate delay of ICD-10, it’s clear the waiting will continue for the new deadline.

Athenahealth is not alone. Others feel similarly about the delay. The following are responses from several healthcare practitioners and their partners about the ICD-10 delay. They provide some interesting insight about the move from October 1, 2014, to 2015 and express disappointment and, in some cases, anger about the postponement.

Michele Hibbert-Iacobacci
Michele Hibbert-Iacobacci

Michele Hibbert-Iaccobacci, vice president of information management and support, Mitchell International

ICD-8 was not an industry standard, so when ICD-9 was introduced, it was a huge undertaking to try and get people trained. For the ICD-10 transition, we have a current standard to work with. The real roadblock for many are the intricacies of ICD-10 because despite all the preparation training you go through, if you don’t have an anatomy and physiology background, it’s going to be a lot harder. I can understand why then, the compliance date would be pushed back but with all the time the industry has spent talking about ICD-10, there are so many resources and educational materials by now that are readily available to healthcare entities. The 2014 ICD-10 compliance date was actually very realistic and attainable with the proper resources.

What’s more confusing in this scenario, is the fact that non-covered entities including property and casualty insurance health plans and worker’s compensation programs, along with others, have started to switch to ICD-10 codes in effort to seamlessly align with the rest of the industry. It’d be a mess if the vendor or partner you were using wasn’t prepared. So now there’s a disconnect. Half of the industry is prepared, half isn’t. There will always be bumps in the road when you’re talking about an entire industry switching to a new language, but a bit of tough love would have done the industry good here. Now we’ll see more time, more energy and more resources go to waste.

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