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Practical Application of Watson with EHR

Posted on July 24, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Ever since Watson made its debut on Jeopardy, I haven’t been able to not check out what Watson was doing next. No doubt what Watson did on Jeopardy was impressive. However, it’s one thing to do what it did on Watson. It’s another thing to commercialize the Watson into something useful.

I’d long been hearing that Watson was going to be great for healthcare IT and that healthcare would really benefit from the technology. However, everything I saw felt very conceptual as opposed to practical and implemented. So, I was really interested in talking with Modernizing Medicine about their EHR integration with Watson.

You can find my interview with Daniel Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling, Founders of Modernizing Medicine, talking about Watson and some of the other cool ways they’re trying to help doctors make use of the data in an EHR in the video below. Plus, we even talk ICD-10 and MU 2 delay as well.

Note: Modernizing Medicine is a Healthcare Scene advertiser.

What Would Make Us Not Delay ICD-10 in 2015?

Posted on July 3, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

While at the HFMA ANI conference in Las Vegas, I talked to a lot of people about the future of healthcare reimbursement. Talk of ICD-10 and the ICD-10 delay came up regularly with most of us rolling our eyes that ICD-10 was delayed again. Some argued that we still need to be prepared, but from what I’m seeing the majority of the market just pushed their plans out a year and will pick them up again later this year or early next year.

With that said, we all agreed that every organization will be much more hesitant preparing for ICD-10 next year since they’re afraid that ICD-10 will just be delayed again.

As I had these discussions, I started thinking about what will be different in 2015 when it comes to ICD-10? As I asked people this question, all of the same arguments that we made in 2014 are what we’re going to have in 2015. Some of them include: the rest of the world adopted this years ago, we’re falling behind on the data we’re capturing, we need more specificity in the way we code so we can improve healthcare, etc etc etc.

Considering these arguments, what will be different next year?

All of the above arguments for not delaying ICD-10 were valid in 2014 and we’ll be just as valid in 2015. Can you think of any reasons that we should not delay ICD-10 in 2015 that weren’t reasons in 2014? I can’t think of any. The closest I’ve come is that with the extra year, we’re better prepared for ICD-10. Although, given people’s propensity to delay, does anyone think we’ll be much better prepared for ICD-10 in 2015 than we were in 2014? In some ways I think we’ll be less prepared because many will likely think the delay will happen again.

Given that the environment will be mostly the same, why wouldn’t we think that ICD-10 will be delayed again in 2015?

Personally, I’ll be watching CMS and HHS closely and see what they say. I think this year they looked really bad when they very publicly proclaimed that ICD-10 was coming at HIMSS just to be hit from the side by the ICD-10 delay. I’d hope that this time CMS will work with Congress to know what they’re planning or thinking before they make such strong assertions. Of course, this would mean that they’d have to understand what Congress is thinking (not an easy task).

What’s unfortunate is that many of the things you need to do to prepare for ICD-10 can also benefit you under ICD-9. The smart organizations understand this and are focusing on clinical documentation improvement (CDI) as the best way to prepare for ICD-10, but still benefit from the program today.

ICD-10 Flight Delayed, But Keep Your Bags Packed – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on April 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer_web

If you’ve ever traveled to a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue, you can appreciate the importance of basic communication. If you learn a second language to the degree that you’re adding nuance and colloquialisms, you’ve experienced how much easier it is to explain a point or to get answers you need. What if you’re expected to actually move to that foreign country under a strict timeline? The pressure is on to get up to speed. The same can be said for learning the detailed coding language of ICD-10.

The healthcare industry has been preparing in earnest to move from ICD-9 coding to the latest version of the international classification of diseases. People have been training, testing and updating information systems, essentially packing their bags to comply with the federal mandate to implement ICD-10 this October — but the trip was postponed. On April 1, President Barrack Obama signed into law a bill that includes an extension for converting to ICD-10 until at least Oct. 1, 2015. What does this mean for your ICD-10 travel plans?

Despite the unexpected delay, you’ll be living in ICD-10 country before you know it. With at least another year until the deadline, the timing is just right to start packing and hitting the books to learn the new codes and to prepare your systems. For those who have a head start, your time and focus has not gone to waste, so don’t throw your suitcases back into the closet. The planning, education and money involved in preparation for the ICD-10 transition doesn’t dissolve with the delay – you’ve collected valuable tools that will be put to use.

Although many people, including myself, are disappointed in the change, we need to continue making progress toward the conversion; learning and using ICD-10 will enable the United States to have more accurate, current and appropriate medical conversations with the rest of the world. Considering that it is almost four decades old, there is only so much communication that ICD-9 can handle; some categories are actually full as the number of new diagnoses continues to grow. ICD-9 uses three to five numeric characters for diagnosis coding, while ICD-10 uses three to seven alphanumeric characters. ICD-10 classifications will provide more specific information about medical conditions and procedures, allowing more depth and accuracy to conversations about a patient’s diagnosis and care.

Making the jump to ICD-10 fluency will be beneficial, albeit challenging. In order to study, understand and use ICD-10, healthcare organizations need to establish a learning system for their teams. The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company, provides training for caregivers and coders that eases learning challenges, such as the expanded clinical documentation and new code set for ICD-10. Simply put, there are people can help with your entire ICD-10 travel itinerary, from creating a checklist of needs to planning a successful route.

ICD-10 is the international standard, so the journey from ICD-9 codes to ICD-10 codes will happen. Do not throw away your ICD-10 coding manuals and education materials just yet. All of these items will come in handy to reach the final destination: ICD-10.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

Why Do People Find ICD-10 So Amusing?

Posted on April 2, 2014 I Written By

In case you missed the news, ICD-10 has been delayed a year. It’s likely that we’ll be taking a break from talking about ICD-10 for the next 6-10 months. However, before we put ICD-10 on the shelf, you might want to read two opposing arguments for and against ICD-10: The Forgotten Argument For ICD-10 and Why ICD-10? Plus, below is a guest blog post by Heidi Kollmorgen, Founder of HD Medical Solutions, putting some perspective on where we’re at with coding. She has some good insights I hadn’t heard before. I’ll probably wrap up this series on ICD-10 with a look at what organizations should do now that ICD-10’s been delayed.
Heidi Kollmorgen
Many people who don’t understand the value of ICD-10 go straight to the “humorous codes” as a reason to justify delaying its implementation or even not adopting it at all. Does anyone realize those codes only make up 67 of the 1583 pages of the 2014 Draft Set?

Those seemingly “useless” codes are stated in the ICD-10 Chapter 21 Guidelines as having “no national requirement for mandatory ICD-10-CM external cause code reporting”. External Causes of Morbidity codes “are intended to provide data for injury research and evaluation of injury prevention strategies” only.

The *real* ICD-10 codes are more specific and allow greater accuracy for clinical data purposes. Many would agree that patient safety and effective and timely patient-centered care are the goal of most healthcare providers. Clinical data gathered and analyzed is what allows this to be achieved and ICD-10 codes are critical for more accurate analysis (1).

ICD-9 was adopted and went “live” in 1979 – how many advances has medicine made since that time? The ICD-9 code set does not allow doctors to accurately identify how they are treating patients any longer, nor does it allow accurate reporting of the services they provide to their patients. In 2003 the NCVHS recommended the adoption of ICD-10 and fourteen years later providers still claim they haven’t had time to prepare (2).

Doctors and other healthcare professionals who choose to take advantage of the daily barrage of free ICD-10 training and education from CMS and countless other sources for themselves and their staff will not go out of business. Providers who recognize that hiring an educated and/or certified medical biller/coder is an investment with huge ROI potential.

Those individuals have the training and ability to prevent and decrease denials and rejected claims from the onset when the claims are initially prepared. They also understand the intricacies of carrier guidelines so providers who hire them will never go out of business or suffer from decreased cash flow, rather their reimbursement would improve and they would also be compliant.

The days of hiring your neighbors daughter or friend because they need a job, or because they like working with numbers are over. It shouldn’t be impossible to understand how saving money in overhead and payroll only costs you infinitely more in lost reimbursement. Is the irony lost in correlating the profession of Health Information Management to Nursing? In the history of medicine it was only in the last one hundred or so years that licensing of nurses went into law. http://www.nursingworld.org/history Would any doctor today work with an unlicensed or inexperienced person who claimed to be a nurse? Would any hospital or facility hire someone who applied for a nursing position only because they liked working with people? That’s basically how the profession of nursing began.

In regards to the opinion held by many how ICD-10 codes are outlandish I would agree in some cases. I have a wicked sense of humor and because I know the codes I could create funnier cartoons than any you have come across. The difference is that coders understand how that argument holds no merit and only proves how providers don’t even understand ICD-9-CM. Unfortunately, most are probably using it incorrectly as well and it may be one of the causes of low reimbursement.

Just in case you see a patient today who is a water skier and has an accident while jumping from a burning ship use ICD-9-CM E8304. Have a patient who was knocked down by an animal-drawn vehicle while riding a bike? There’s a code for that too – ICD-9-CM E827.

The good news is how the Guidelines for ICD-9-CM patient encounters are similar to ICD-10-CM for these types of codes. If you don’t typically use them now you won’t when ICD-10 goes into effect either. Providers who document what they did, why they did it and what they plan to do do about it will have no problem switching to ICD-10. Aren’t we lucky nothing has changed about that?

Heidi Kollmorgen is the founder of HD Medical Solutions which offers practice management services for solo and multi-physician groups. She holds AHIMA certifications and is dedicated to optimizing reimbursement by following compliant measures. She can be found at http://hdmedicalcoding.com/ or follow her on Twitter @HDMed4u.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

Posted on March 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

you know that blue button is not a funny ICD-10 code.

Find all our #HITNerd references on: EMR and EHR & EMR and HIPAA.

NEW: Check out the #HITNerd store to purchase an #HITNerd t-shirt of cell phone case.

Note: Much like Jeff Foxworthy is a redneck. I’m well aware that I’m an #HITNerd.

My Optimism for Healthcare IT – #DoMoreHIT

Posted on March 28, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I posted about previously, I took part in the Dell Healthcare Think Tank event last week. This was my second year participating in the event, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating discussion. In many ways it makes me wish that there was a health IT conference that was 2 days of stimulating discussion like we had, but with a larger mix of people. Would be a great experience.

At the end of the event, we were asked to summarize our thoughts about the event and where we were headed with healthcare IT. Here’s the video of my response:

Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the meaningful use or ICD-10 mire (especially given all the ICD-10 delay talk). That’s natural since they are important issues. However, as I say in the video, I think we’re just getting started when it comes to the impact for good that IT will have on healthcare. Sure we have challenges, but the opportunities and potential is much greater than the challenges.

If you missed the live stream of the event, you can watch the recording here. Also, they had an artist capturing the event as we talked. Check them out below (click on the image to see the larger size):

To ICD-10 Delay or Not To ICD-10 Delay

Posted on March 27, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

UPDATE: It looks like this bill has passed the house with a voice vote. I believe it still needs to be passed by Congress and not be vetoed by the President.

UPDATE 2: Late on 3/31/14, the Senate passed the bill which delays ICD-10 by a vote of 64 – 35. Barring a veto from the President, the bill will go forth and the ICD-10 implementation date will be moved to October 1, 2015. All of the discussion for the bill was around the SGR fix with no conversation around the ICD-10 delay. It’s unlikely that the President would even consider a veto of this bill.

We’d already stoked the ICD-10 delay fires in Kyle Samani’s post on “Why ICD-10?” before the news came out yesterday that a one year ICD-10 delay was put in an SGR bill. Word on the street was that the bill would be put up for a vote today. However, I hear now that the vote on the bill is going to be delayed at least until tomorrow.

The reports are saying that this bill was developed by John Boehner and Harry Reid which likely means they have enough votes to make it a reality. I read that Nancy Pelosi said on CSPAN that the bill wasn’t perfect, but needed to be passed. My only question is whether the delay in voting is because they’re still trying to cull votes for the bill or something else.

As I suggested in my post linked above, my guess is that congress is hearing from both those for delaying ICD-10 and those who oppose delaying ICD-10. I bet they consider the response a wash and so it won’t sway them either way. Plus, I bet that most in Congress are only talking about the SGR portion of the bill without much discussion on the ICD-10 delay.

This decision is going to cut many people. Let me share a few of the comments I’ve read.

First, from the LinkedIn AHIMA group, here’s a coder perspective on the delay:

I think of the coder who is a single mom struggling from pay check to pay check who had to spent $500 (or more) to take a course and another $60 on the proficiency exam, spent time away from caring for her family to prepare for the implementation only to have the rug pulled right from under her. The $560 is likely her discretionary income for the month. Who is thinking or her?

Don’t tell us there will absolutely be NO delays, allow us to spend our hard earned money to prepare, and then say “just kidding– we are going to tease you with another year — make you spend more money — promise no delays — then change our mind again!” “Oh, and the check is in the mail.” Yes ladies and gentleman, this is our government working “for the people.” And I ask, why does Congress even care about ICD-10? Do they even have a clue what they are voting for or against? They are trying to quietly slip it into a bill so that no one notices. I could be wrong, but it sounds like the work of a single lobbyist and Senator/Congressman. I would like to know the name of the person who put that language into the bill. Democracy at its finest!

Now a perspective that is likely shared by the thousands of ill-prepared practices and hospitals (although, my guess is that it was their larger organizations that lobbied for it, not the individual practices and hospitals that aren’t prepared):

As bad an idea as it is, a majority of practices, and a significant number of hospitals, health systems and other providers are, or feel, very un-prepared for the transition, and so have lobbied for delay. D.C. insiders say it’s a done deal.

On the other side is the prepared health IT vendors that think that a delay is letting the ill prepared off the hook. One EHR vendor sent me an email with this message:

This really is a pain to a vendor like us that is all ready to launch and take good care of our clients with ICD-10. Everything we programmed came out great and we are ready to go.

This feeling doesn’t just apply to health IT vendors that have procrastinated, but to all the procrastinators:

Why prolong the inevitable, again? The procrastinators should be penalized, not the rest of us who’ve been preparing for it.

What we all want most is certainty. HHS came out with certainty during HIMSS when they said that there would be no more delays with ICD-10. Unfortunately, HHS doesn’t control congress.

I’ve been reading a lot of reports that a delay in ICD-10 would cost billions of dollars. I’m not sure I trust those numbers, but it’s no surprise that those numbers don’t take into account the impact and cost of ICD-10 being implemented. Personally, I see costs in ICD-10 going forward and costs in ICD-10 being delayed. I’m not sure we can quantify either number accurately.

Obviously, this is a fast moving story, so I’ll update this post with any updates as I get them. Feel free to leave comments with updates as well.

Surviving 2014: The Toughest Year in Healthcare

Posted on March 26, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Ben Quirk, CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions.
Ben Quirk
How bad is 2014 for the healthcare industry? We’ve all read about ICD-10, EHR incentives, Medicare cuts, and the Affordable Care Act. But the most telling moment for me occurred during this year’s HIMSS conference in Orlando. There was quite a bit of B2B enthusiasm, but among the civilians it was mostly a lot of stunned looks and talk about how to get through the year. Here are some of my observations:

ICD-10. CMS has made it abundantly clear there will be no further delays to the October 1 deadline for ICD-10 implementation. This is possibly the most significant change to the healthcare industry in 35 years, affecting claims payment/billing systems, clearinghouses, and private and public software applications. Anyone who provides or receives healthcare in the US will be touched by this in some way.

In a recent poll of healthcare providers conducted by KPMG, less than half of the respondents said they had performed basic testing on ICD-10, and only a third had completed comprehensive tests. Moreover, about 3 out of 4 said they did not plan to conduct tests of any kind with entities outside their organizations.

Incorrect claims denial will be the most likely result. CMS will not process ICD-9 Medicare/Medicaid claims after October 1, and there is a high potential for faulty ICD-10 coding or bad mapping to ICD-9 codes. Error rates of 6 to 10 percent are anticipated, compared to an average of 3 percent under ICD-9. ICD-10 will result in a 100 to 200 percent increase in denial rates, with a related increase in receivable days of 20 to 40 percent. Cash flow problems could extend up to two years following implementation. This will be a costly issue for providers, and a very visible issue for patients.

We advise our clients to be proactive in their financial planning. This should include preparation for delayed claims adjudication and payments, adjustments to cash reserves, or even arranging for a new/increased line of credit. Having sufficient cash on hand to cover overhead during the final quarter of 2014 could be very important, as could future reserves to cover up to six months of payment delays. Companies not in a position to set aside reserves should consider working with lenders now before any issues arise.

Meaningful Use. As with ICD-10, CMS has stated there will be no delays to MU deadlines in 2014. That means providers who have never attested must do so by September 30, or else be subject to penalties in the form of Medicare payment adjustments starting in 2015. Providers who have attested in the past will have a bit longer (until December 31), but the penalties are the same.

There is much dissatisfaction with the government’s “all or nothing” approach to MU, where even the slightest misstep can invalidate an otherwise accurate attestation. While the ONC has proposed a more lenient model for EHR certification in coming years, everything will be measured against a hard deadline in 2014.  CMS is offering some mitigation through hardship exemptions, based on rules that are somewhat broad at this point. Providers should consider applying for an exemption if no other options are available.

We advise against taking shortcuts or rushing to beat the clock on MU. Up to ten percent of eligible professionals and hospitals will be subject to audit, and large hospitals may have millions of dollars at stake. Being prepared for an audit means more than just making sure an attestation is iron-clad; internal workflow and communication are also important. A mishandled audit notification can result in a late response and automatic failure.  Data security should also not be overlooked. Medical groups have failed audits due to lapsed security risk assessments as required under HIPAA.

Medicare Payment Cuts. Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cuts continue to hover over Medicare providers. Enacted by Congress in 1997, the SGR was intended to control costs by cutting reimbursements to providers based on prior year expenditures. But every year costs continue to rise, as do ever-worse SGR cuts (almost 24% in 2015). And every year Congress prevents the cuts via so-called “doc fix” legislation.

In early 2014 there was surprising bi-partisan agreement on a permanent doc fix, whereby Medicare reimbursements would be based on quality measures rather than overall expenditures. However, the legislation was derailed by linking it to a delay of the ACA’s individual mandate. As of mid-March there is still no permanent or temporary solution. Congress will almost certainly intervene to prevent SGR cuts, but by how much is uncertain.

The ACA. As the cost of insurance has increased over the past decade, high-deductible plans have become more and more common. Due to the Affordable Care Act, this trend has become the norm. Media outlets focus on the impact to consumers, and argue about whether more “skin in the game” leads to better choices or less care. What we’re hearing from the front lines is much more concrete: high deductibles are having a negative impact on revenues.

Very few people understand their liabilities under a typical health insurance plan. Last year George Loewenstein, a health-care economist with Carnegie Mellon University, published a survey showing that only 14 percent of respondents understood the basics of traditional insurance policies. At the same time, hospitals report that about 25 percent of bad debt originates from patients who are currently insured. With millions of new enrollees in high-deductible plans and an ongoing economic slump, the situation can only get worse.

The ACA had a further impact by reducing the amount of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) charity funds available, based on a projected increase in insurance coverage.  But with some states not participating in Medicaid expansion, combined with an increase in patients lacking the knowledge or resources to manage large medical expenditures, the reduction in funds comes at exactly the wrong time.

Providers can cope by adjusting revenue cycle processes. For example, new programs should focus on estimating patient liabilities pre-arrival, educating the patient at check-in, and instituting proactive billing/collection at the point of service. In general, providers must pay more attention to the self-pay process, focusing on patient education and offering transparent, easy-to-use billing and payment methods.

Value Modifier. This program has not been a worry for most providers thus far. Not because it won’t have an impact on revenue, but because they don’t know about it. A little-known provision of the ACA, the Value-Based Payment Modifier mandates adjustments to Medicare reimbursement based on quality and cost measures. The program is being phased in, and so far has applied only to group practices of 100 or more Eligible Professionals (EPs). In 2014, smaller groups of 10 or more EPs will be subject to the legislation. These groups must apply and report to the program by October 1. Otherwise, they will be subject to a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements starting in 2016.

One of the most important aspects of the program is its definition of “eligible professional” when defining the size of a group practice. For the purposes of Value Modifier, eligible professionals include not only physicians but also practitioners and therapists. That means that a practice with 8 physicians, a nurse practitioner, and a physical therapist would qualify as a practice with 10 EPs.

Value Modifier is part of the growing trend toward quality-based reimbursement. Even commercial payers are considering some version of the program. The scoring calculations are complex and poorly understood, so we advise clients to get up-to-speed as soon as possible. Groups with high quality and low cost will receive incentives rather than cuts, with additional upward adjustment for services to high-risk beneficiaries. Groups that are not paying attention may be surprised by an additional hit to revenue in 2016. In addition, quality scores will eventually be published to the general public on the Medicare.gov Physician Compare website.  Sub-par or missing scores could have a negative financial impact on a practice.

Conclusion

These are only the most high-profile impacts to the healthcare industry during the current year. Much else flows from them: changes to workflow, to computer systems, to financial expectations. Tremendous pressures are coming to bear within a limited timeframe.  We’re seeing an industry in the midst of tectonic change, with 2014 as the fault line. It’s unclear whether these disruptions will be for better or worse. But there certainly will be winners and losers, and those who plan ahead are most likely to survive.

______________________

Ben Quirk is CEO of Quirk Healthcare Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in EHR strategic management, workflow optimization, systems development, and training. The company’s clients have enjoyed remarkable success, including award of the Medicare Advantage 5-star rating. Quirk Healthcare presents a weekly webinar series, Insights, to inform clients and the general public about government programs and industry trends. Mr. Quirk is also Executive Director of the Quirk Healthcare Foundation, a learning institution which fosters innovation in the healthcare industry.

ICD-10 – Is Everyone Ready? – ICD-10 Tuesdays

Posted on March 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
One of the biggest challenges to revenue a practice will face in 2014 is the move to ICD-10 on October 1, 2014. One of the biggest challenges with ICD-10 is that it impacts the entire healthcare ecosystem. This means that revenue flow could be impacted if any one part of the healthcare billing continuum isn’t ready.

The first key step every organization can take to prepare for the switch to ICD-10 is to do an audit of which systems, people, and processes will be impacted by the change. Second, you should evaluate the ICD-10 readiness of each system, people and process. Finally, you should make a plan for how you’ll ensure that each piece of the puzzle is ready for ICD-10.

Here’s a quick look at some of the places you’ll want to look when doing an audit of your ICD-10 readiness:
EHR Software
This is an obvious one. We all know that the EHR vendor needs to be ready for ICD-10. However, as John posted previously, Is Your EHR Ready for ICD-10, Not Just Say They’re Ready? it’s really easy for an EHR vendor to say they’ll be ready for ICD-10. At the core of being ready for ICD-10 is just being able to use a new code. Every EHR vendor will be able to enter the new code. Instead of asking if they are ready for ICD-10, you should ask your EHR vendor what interface they’ve created for you to be able to find the ICD-10 codes. You’ll want to get in and test this new interface for finding codes well before the ICD-10 deadline so they can make any changes to the software.

Providers
Every doctor I know understands they they’re going to have to be ready for ICD-10. They’ve heard about the expanded set of codes and how finding the right code is likely going to take extra time. What many doctors haven’t realized yet is that with increased coding specificity, the doctor’s documentation is going to have to change as well. Coding 101 is that the coding has to match the documentation. This will require every doctor to change the way they document their visit even if it’s only a small change.

Billing Software
This is another obvious one and many of the lessons mentioned above about EHR software apply to billing software. However, you’ll definitely want to make sure that your billing software is ready for ICD-10. Can you imagine the impact to your organization if they’re not ready? You might not think this is possible, but I’ve heard some billing software already announce that they’re not planning to revise their software for ICD-10.

Billers and Coders
This is the group that seems most prepared for ICD-10. Most people realize that the coders or billers in their organization need to be ready for ICD-10. Unfortunately for many organizations, that’s where they think all the ICD-10 preparation needs to happen. As this list shows, they are so wrong. However, if you haven’t invested in getting your billers and coders ready for ICD-10, then you better start doing so now. In some cases you may have an older coder that chooses to retire instead of learning ICD-10. Make sure you learn if this is the case now instead of October 1st.

Billing Company
It’s really hard to imagine a billing company not being ready for ICD-10. It’s a basic fundamental of them being a business. If they can’t do ICD-10 they’ll be out of business. However, it makes sense for you to check with them to see what they’ve done to prepare for ICD-10. You’re their customer and it never hurts to hold them accountable. If they don’t thank you up front, they’ll thank you on October 1st when they’re ready for the change.

Labs and Radiology
You’d think that these wouldn’t be that big of an issue since we’re just talking about a new code that gets sent to the lab or radiology. However, if they’re not expecting ICD-10 codes, your patients could run into issues. Plus, many of you have interfaces which send this information automatically. You’ll want to make sure that these interfaces can handle the new codes as well.

Payors
This is probably the most important one and also one of the most challenging. It is the most important, because if they’re not ready for ICD-10 that could mean that you stop getting paid. In many organizations, a hit to their cash flow could have serious ramifications. My guess is that some of you don’t think that this could ever really happen. I assure you that it could happen. Certainly they’ll eventually fix whatever issues they have and they’ll get rolling with ICD-10. Although, will it take them a week, a month, a couple months, to fix whatever issues they may be experiencing? Can you handle not getting paid for a week, month, or multiple months? The challenge is that there’s no simple way for you to know if the payors are indeed ready for ICD-10. The best advice I can offer is a famous statement, “The squeaky wheel gets greased.” Don’t be afraid to make some noise to make sure they’re ready.

Hospitals and HIE
Many vendors are starting to build interfaces with their hospital or an outside HIE (Health Information Exchange). If you have one of these interfaces, you’ll want to make sure that it can support the new ICD-10 codes. Don’t forget to check and test both sides of the interface for their ICD-10 readiness.

Other ICD-10 Readiness Advice
When assessing the readiness of the various entities listed above (and you will likely have others), it’s important that you ask the right questions to make sure you get the right answers. Much like when you’re evaluating between EHR vendors, you want to avoid asking Yes/No questions. For example, if you ask your EHR vendor, “Are you ready for ICD-10?” then you will quickly get a response of Yes. If instead you ask, “What have you done to get ready for ICD-10?” you will get a much more informative answer that helps you understand their true ICD-10 readiness.

Also, when doing your assessment of their readiness, don’t forget to also verify that they can handle ICD-9 for those situations where an organization still hasn’t moved to ICD-10. Yes, it’s crazy that some government organizations aren’t moving to ICD-10. However, it’s the stark reality, so make sure that when needed to you can still support ICD-9 as well.

In all of this, there’s a challenging balance between doing your training too early or too late. If you train your doctors on ICD-10 too early, then they’re likely to forget it by the time October 1st rolls around. However, if you wait until the ICD-10 deadline approaches, the resources for ICD-10 won’t be available. Can you imagine what it will be like to try and hire an ICD-10 coder or ICD-10 trainer in September?

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

Unintended ICD-10 Consequences: Inadequate Clinical Documentation Can Negatively Impact Physician Profiles – ICD-10 Tuesdays

Posted on March 11, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Minnette Terlep from Amphion Medical Solutions.
Minnette Terlep
Often lost in the overarching conversation surrounding the potential negatives of ICD-10 is the very real impact it could have on the selection of physicians and hospitals by health plans, MCOs and shared-risk organizations for participation in provider networks. To succeed, these organizations seek out providers with a strong track record of care that is both high quality and cost-efficient—which is where ICD-10 can hurt or help.

Physicians do not assign codes. They are, however, responsible for documenting at a level of specificity that allows the assignment of codes—the burden of which is exponentially higher under ICD-10. The coder can only assign codes matching the level of specificity supported by the documentation. If the assigned codes reflect a level of severity that is artificially low because of inadequate documentation, it can raise red flags for organizations who profile physicians.

That is because these organizations look not only at severity of illness and mortality rates, but also cost efficiency in providing care. If a physician appears to be over-utilizing resources based on the final assigned codes, it is very likely he or she will be considered a risk and excluded from the network.

For example, if a physician simply documents “pneumonia” as the principal diagnosis and the patient receives standard care for this simple pneumonia, the case will generally and appropriately assign to the lower weighted MS-DRG for community acquired pneumonia.  But what if the patient is actually diagnosed with a type of gram negative pneumonia that is fully supported by a positive culture? If the physician fails to document this more resource-intensive type of pneumonia so the significantly higher weighted MS-DRG can be assigned, then the patient’s days in the ICU and on the medical floor for continued care would not appear to be justified.

The difference in cost between the two scenarios is thousands of dollars, which is problematic on its own. However, it also presents ongoing challenges for the physician in the second scenario: Getting improperly tagged as a resource over-utilizer because, based on the codes and MS-DRG assignment, excessive care was provided. This could easily result in exclusion from a plan or participation in shared-risk initiatives.

We’ve been inundated with information on how clinical documentation must be significantly improved in advance of ICD-10 because of the impact under-coding can have on reimbursements and core measures performance. However, as illustrated in the pneumonia scenario, the potential impact on individual physicians runs deeper. When the highly detailed nature of ICD-10 is coupled with the growing emphasis on standardized care and quality over quantity, it spells potential financial and reputational ruin for physicians whose profile raises concerns about mortality rates and ability to provide cost effective care.

It may also impact the hospitals with which the physician is affiliated. Both can quickly find themselves locked out of networks and excluded from potentially lucrative shared-risk models. Exacerbating the potential impact is the growing (albeit slowly) emphasis patients place on identifying physicians and hospitals with high quality and outcomes rankings, both of which can be tainted by the specter of over-utilization.

While protecting a physician’s profile from the over-utilization category isn’t generally at the center of documentation improvement strategies in advance of ICD-10, there are ample reasons why it should be. So much of what we see and hear about the greater specificity required under ICD-10 is geared toward the impact DRG assignments will have on reimbursement, but in reality it can have far greater long-term financial and reputational repercussions.

Thus, identifying and correcting gaps and areas of weakness in clinical documentation will be beneficial not only for ensuring appropriate reimbursement levels and outcomes metrics reflecting true performance, but also to prevent unjust exclusion from provider networks.

Physicians and hospitals taking the time to analyze profiles to ensure they accurately reflect utilization rates, and to identify and correct documentation-related problem areas that may leave managed care and shared-risk organizations with the wrong impression, will find doors to participation will remain open—and benefit the bottom line.

Minnette Terlep, BS, RHIT, is vice president of business development and chief compliance officer for Amphion Medical Solutions. She can be reached at Minnette.Terlep@amphionmedical.com.

Check out all of our ICD-10 Tuesdays series of ICD-10 related blog posts.