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Five Commonly Overlooked ICD-10 IT Transition Strategies

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Daniel M. Flanagan, Executive Consultant, Beacon Partners.
Daniel M. Flanagan, Executive Consultant, Beacon Partners
While some organizations have relaxed their approach to ICD-10 readiness given the October 1, 2015 extension, recent polls show that the majority of healthcare organizations remain woefully unprepared.  About 60% of healthcare systems and 96% of physician practices have not begun end-to-end testing according to recent surveys conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Navicure, a leading claims clearinghouse. A lack of testing puts the ICD-10 transition at the greatest risk of failure.

ICD-10 readiness planning should remain a top priority because conducting a comprehensive gap analysis and the resulting remediation work will correct system vulnerabilities that will improve revenue cycle performance today.  However, systems performance improvement is time and resource-intensive and cannot be achieved at the last minute.

Below are five often overlooked transition planning steps:

  1. Update and complete your IT system inventory. We have helped several healthcare organizations prepare for ICD-10 and a common vulnerability is the absence of a complete and accurate IT inventory. Nearly one-third of organizations do not keep an inventory, and, of those that do, most are inaccurate. Many contain systems that are no longer in use and fail to reflect new or recently upgraded applications. Only a few organizations have had a complete IT inventory that accurately reflects all systems requiring end-to-end testing.  We often discover code-sensitive “orphan” applications and systems implemented by end-users without the IT department’s review and approval, which must be added to the inventory. An accurate IT inventory is critical to determine the extent of testing required, and to budget the time and expense needed to complete it.
  1. Review the number and functionality of all interfaces. Revenue cycle interfaces often contain the most critical code processing gaps and represent an organization’s greatest transition risk. For example, workflow analysis sometimes reveals unreliable processing of ICD-9 codes by billing system or other interfaces.  Extensive remediation is needed after the readiness assessment is completed in such cases.  Highly unreliable manual systems are also often used to process code, which impacts work that should be handled electronically. When conducting a workflow analysis, we sometimes find that experienced revenue cycle system end-users disagree about the design and functionality of long-standing systems and interfaces. Friction can arise between end-users and IT application specialists when interfaces do not work or appear not to work properly. Such issues can often be resolved quickly and objectively when a workflow analysis is performed early in the readiness planning process.
  1. Enlist the support of system end-users early to identify performance gaps and devise solutions. Readiness requires that any system that stores, processes, or uses diagnosis codes be identified and tested. However, it is easy to overlook some important performance gaps. In the majority of cases, end-users can readily identify performance gaps and recommend potential, practical solutions.  End-users can also be valuable in identifying potential solutions.  Involving end-users as early as possible in transition planning can avert wasted time.  For instance CDI, case management, as well as QA operating and reporting systems are heavily code-driven, but can be tough to “see,” especially if work is performed on paper. Enlisting end-users to identify code-impacted systems is a great way to ensure nothing is missed.
  1. Set a date to begin testing and verify that payers, clearinghouses, IT vendors, and others tied to your revenue cycle are ICD-10 compliant. End-to-end testing is vital to confirm ICD-10 readiness. Without testing, problem areas are not recognized and will not get fixed, which places the transition at the greatest of failure. Request that each payer and vendor confirm system compliance in writing and set a date when testing will begin.  In addition, we always recommend that our clients call and, if possible, visit key payers to confirm their readiness.   A payer’s inability to commit to a testing date is a warning sign that warrants immediate follow-up.
  1. Align transition efforts and resources with top priority goals. Transition planning will highlight performance improvement opportunities across a range of systems — including IT, revenue cycle, clinical documentation, quality assurance, and EMR.  The variety of performance improvement opportunities sometimes results in an organization creating more goals than needed for a successful transition. Supplemental initiatives can be overwhelming to achieve with restricted resources in a limited timeframe.  The key is to identify “mission critical” transition objectives and allocate scarce resources accordingly.  Define clear objectives and create a detailed plan to monitor progress for achieving each goal.  For example:
    • Revenue cycle performance: Create benchmarks and dashboards for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that routinely report system performance now and after ICD-10 go-live.
    • IT: Validate system interfaces and upgrades, and perform testing to ensure confirmation of claim submission data flow. Testing results will provide valuable guidance to remediation efforts.
    • Clinical documentation: Establish a Clinical Documentation Improvement Program (CDIP) to audit provider documentation and coding. The initiative should be designed to provide ongoing training, as well as measure progress while ensuring data integrity, medical necessity, and billing compliance.

Although the deadline may have shifted, healthcare organizations need to stay on track to make the necessary IT and systems changes needed to optimize performance now and in the future.

About Daniel M. Flanagan
Daniel M. Flanagan is a seasoned healthcare executive with 28 years of leadership experience in the health system, physician practice and managed care fields. His primary interest has been performance improvement, especially in revenue cycle operations, improvement plan development and implementation and strategic planning, budgeting and implementation. Mr. Flanagan understands the challenges posed by today’s environment and is experienced in helping clients identify and capitalize upon opportunities to improve organizational performance.

ROI for EMR: Does It Even Make Sense Now?

Posted on December 20, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

There’s a new data point to add to the debate over EMR return on investment.

Norton Healthcare Inc. in Louisville, Ky., has experienced a $12 million increase in federal reimbursement since it started using Epic, Louisville Business First reported. The health system, which operates five hospitals and a network of outpatient sites, is three years into a five-year, $200 million implementation.

Sounds like the beginning of some pretty good ROI. Or does it?

It’s hard to say.

ROI for records systems is notoriously hard to pin down. The word is that many hospitals don’t even try. And they might be onto something.

A revenue boost is a good sign. It’s often a result of improved coding and lower claims denial rates, as Colin Konschak of health care consulting firm Divurgent and Garrett Blair of Norfolk, Va.-based health system Sentara Healthcare recently wrote. And of course, there are the federal incentives for using an EMR — for hospitals, as much as $11 million over four years.

There’s also the rise in productivity that EMRs are expected to cause. At first, an EMR can slow down clinicians’ workflow and cost them and their organization money. But in time, the system could increase productivity.

But revenue is only part of the equation. Cost savings are the more important — and harder to calculate — factor.

Here are a few ways, as described by Konschak and Blair, that EMRs can help hospitals to save:

  • Less need for transcription.

  • Reduced use of staff time for copying and filing.

  • Reduced — often by 50-70 percent — use of preprinted forms.

  • Potentially lower malpractice premiums because of more complete documentation.

Many other potential benefits are probably real but are even less straightforward to measure. Features such as clinical decision support and electronic medical administration records, for example, could lead to reductions in medical errors — the types of mistakes the federal government no longer pays for. But measuring the money you saved from the errors you didn’t make is fairly abstract.

Many hospitals do little if anything to measure the return on their EMR investment, according to a study released by Beacon Partners last year. Healthcare Scene’s John Lynn wrote a few months ago that CIOs likely view the systems as a “necessary requirement of being a hospital today,” somewhat like cleaning supplies. So they don’t see the need to measure ROI.

To me, the “investment” part of ROI suggests that you have a choice. You put money into something now with the hope — but no guarantee — of a payoff later.

Building an imaging center on the edge of town or buying a surgical robot would probably be considered investments. Maintaining your buildings or upgrading your phones would not.

Doing something the government is making you do is not an investment. Given the reimbursement penalties that will eventually kick in for organizations that stick with paper, it’s hard to imagine that many hospital executives see EMR adoption as a matter choice.

The idea of ROI for EMR is probably outdated, a holdover from the days when having a system was optional. Hospital leaders are shopping for EMRs with an eye toward getting the best value for their money — just the way they shop for cleaning supplies, furniture or legal services.

You could say that as a society we’ve invested in the idea of EMRs and that we’re hoping for a payoff in terms of better outcomes and lower costs. But that doesn’t predict much about whether any particular hospital or doctor will see a dollar-and-cents ROI.

At Norton in Louisville, it sounds like they’re happy just to be recovering some of what they’re spending.

“It really does improve the continuity of care,” Norton’s chief medical officer, Dr. Steve Heilman, told Business First.

For now, it sounds like Norton is on track.

(Note: I work for Business First as a freelancer but didn’t write the story linked here.)

Got Healthcare IT Jobs? We Do…Now

Posted on November 13, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

When I first started blogging 8 years ago, I never thought I’d become a full time blogger. 8 years and 6000 blog posts later, it’s safe to say that blogging is a big part of my life. In fact, I’ll probably be a blogger until the day I die. If you asked me a month ago what I could do for organizations looking for healthcare IT talent or individuals seeking healthcare IT jobs, I wouldn’t have much to offer beyond advertising. Today, that all changes.

I’m really excited to announce Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today are now part of the Healthcare Scene family of health IT websites. You fan find the full announcement press release on EMR and EHR News.

I can’t tell you enough how exciting it is for me to start working with Gwen Darling, the founder and creator of Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today (Check out her thoughts on the acquisition here). Anyone that’s worked with Gwen or Healthcare IT Central knows how much she cares about those who’ve used Healthcare IT Central to find jobs or fill positions. Much like me, she takes a personal interest in so many members of her community. It’s thrilling to think about how Gwen and I together can help even more people find their dream jobs at the top healthcare companies.

Check out a few of the Healthcare IT Central stats that illustrate the size of the healthcare IT community Gwen created:
-9000+ Recent and Relevant Healthcare IT Resumes
-14,000+ eNewsletter Subscribers
-16,000+ Job Seekers Registered – Upload Your Resume
-750 Registered Employers – Post Your Jobs

On Healthcare IT Central, you can search for health IT jobs from top companies such as Beacon Partners, First Choice Professionals, Cipe Consulting Group, CTG Healthcare, Holland Square Group, Healthcare IS, and many others. Plus, I’m really excited that since Gwen and I started to working together, we’ve already added top health IT consulting companies ESD, Encore Health Resources, and Cordea Consulting and we’re just getting started.

The Healthcare IT Today blog is also a really impressive resource. Since January 2010, 18 of the top healthcare IT career professionals have created 504 posts. For example, take a look at a few of the top blog posts about Epic Certification (150 comments) and becoming a healthcare IT consultant.

What does this mean for Healthcare Scene? For most readers you won’t see much difference. We’re still planning to offer the same great content we’ve been creating for years. However, with the addition of the large Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today community, we’ll hopefully get even more engaging discussions in the comments from a larger variety of voices.

Plus, I know that there are many in the Healthcare Scene community that are either trying to find better jobs, looking for jobs, or looking to hire qualified health IT professionals. We’ve added a widget in the sidebar of each website for easy access to the latest Healthcare IT Central jobs. You might have also noticed some jobs being posted to our various social media channels. We’ll continue to look for ways to integrate all of the websites in tasteful ways.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the new additions to the family. We’re really excited by what we’ve already been able to accomplish and we’re just getting started. Plus, I feel lucky that Gwen is sticking around to continue running the site. I’m excited to work alongside her and learn from her. Let us know what else we can do to make sure we are the premiere destination for healthcare IT.