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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How Health IT Can Affect Individual Patient Outcomes

As someone passionate about patient engagement and using health IT and other technologies to improve care, I continue hear a great deal about how solutions can actually benefit population health. Even at the most recent HIMSS conference, “patient engagement” as a term clearly has become one of this year’s biggest buzz phrases.

Conference sessions were dedicated to the topic, vendors marketed their services to solving some of the issues associated with it and seemingly everyone in attendance had an opinion for what needs to be done or at least has some strategies for bringing more patients — or their data — directly into the care sphere.

Problem is, from my perspective, that, unfortunately, too much is still being said about population health and not nearly enough about individual health. In theory, I understand why this must be, but in practicality, I don’t understand the seemingly lack of attention individuals are receiving. Obviously, if population health outcomes improve then that must logically mean individual health outcomes are improving.

And while I understand that not everyone or every need can possibly be addressed, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to fill those needs. The current conversations about improved population health remind me of a common business/life solution when addressing a major problem: How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Likewise, it would seem the same approach could be taken to achieve improve population health outcomes: One individual patient at a time.

That said, I asked some folks within the health IT community how technology affects individual patient outcomes. Though some of the ideas here are still high level, perhaps they are a step in the right direction. Here are some of the responses I received:

Ben Quirk
Ben Quirk

Ben Quirk, CEO, Quirk Healthcare Solutions

What are the real-world benefits of electronic health records, for example, to a specific individual? To answer that question, let’s take a look at a fictional person we’ll call “Bill.” Bill is quite elderly and has a variety of age-related illnesses. He lives in Ohio, and decides spend the winter with his daughter in Florida.

Bill’s daughter, Susan, arranges for her father to be seen by a local specialist during his stay. Susan tries to get a voluminous paper file transferred from Ohio to the new doctor in Florida, but there are delays: phone messages are missed, handwriting is misread, and no one has time to copy and mail 100 pages of medical records.

In the end, Susan is unable to get her father’s records transferred in time for the appointment with the new physician. As a result, an unnecessary test is performed, and a drug is prescribed that had caused an allergic reaction in the past.

In the future, EHRs will enable the Florida clinic to have electronic access to the same records available in Ohio. Already, Medicare and some commercial carriers have websites that list physician visits, patient complaints, diagnoses made, lab/diagnostic tests performed, and drugs prescribed. Eventually, such websites may include a full medical profile, including doctor’s notes, lab results, x-ray images and more.

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