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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.

Five Reasons to be Thankful for ICD-10

Posted on November 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 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 Wendy Coplan-Gould, RHIA, Founder and President of HRS Coding.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend—a time for reflection and gratitude. Thoughts typically turn to family, friends, health, and life’s many other blessings. In addition to all of these, this Thanksgiving I suggest that the healthcare industry also include ICD-10 in our list of godsends. Here are five reasons why:

Reason #1:  To Code New Diagnosis, Procedures and Devices

The current ICD-9 coding nomenclature was developed in the 1970s. The healthcare industry can’t afford for this same system to be capturing data in the 21st century. We need the ability to specifically code new diseases, procedures and devices. For example, U.S. healthcare providers are unable to precisely code Ebola in ICD-9. That’s true.

There is no specific code for the diagnosis of Ebola in ICD-9, only a general code 078.89, other specific diseases due to viruses. In ICD-10, the code is A98.4, Ebola virus disease. This is the kind of data specificity that our nation needs and ICD-10 delivers.

Reason #2: To Help Keep Patients Safe through Better Data

ICD-10 also helps the healthcare industry capture and track data, and use it to ensure the safety of our patients. The inability to have specific data at our fingertips can be crippling to an institution and result in erroneous decisions based on faulty or imprecise data. Be thankful for ICD-10’s ability to accurately pinpoint diagnoses—and support more precise, exact patient care.

Reason #3: To Reduce Costs

Hospitals are strapped for money. Costs must be reduced whenever and wherever possible. ICD-10 will help hospitals properly bill for the services they deliver. With ICD-10 fully implemented and clinical documentation more granular, hospitals will experience fewer payer denials, claims audits and reimbursement appeals. Valuable time, money and resources will be saved over the long run.

Physician practices also have reason for thanks. New data published on the Journal of AHIMA website earlier this month suggests that the estimated costs, time and resources for offices to convert are “dramatically lower” than original estimates. According to the article, the actual conversion cost for a small practice ranges from $1,900 to $5,900, which is 92 to 94 percent less than initially predicted, resulting in a faster return on investment for your ICD-10 efforts.

Reason #4: To Improve Quality Scores and Performance Rankings

Setting aside zany codes and implementation barriers, ICD-10 is a blessing for quality reporting and performance scorecards. ICD-10’s code granularity works hand in hand with improved clinical documentation across all disciplines to help organizations achieve more accurate quality scores and competitive rankings. This is good news for hospitals and physicians alike.

For example, in ICD-9-CM, there is only one code (427.31) for atrial fibrillation.  In ICD-10-CM, physicians must specify the atrial fibrillation as paroxysmal (I48.0), persistent (I48.1) or chronic (I48.2), providing the specificity for a secondary diagnosis that can affect severity of illness scores and impact quality measures.

Reason #5: To Strengthen Hospital-Physician Relationships

ICD-10 is a bull’s-eye for governmental delay. And physician groups are usually the archers behind Congressional action against ICD-10. As recently as this week, physicians were pushing legislators to delay ICD-10 yet again. However, the tide may be turning.

In an effort to help their laggard physicians, many hospitals are reaching out to assist practices and groups in four key areas:

  • ICD-10 assessments
  • clinical documentation reviews
  • technology upgrades
  • physician-coder education

Helping physician practices with ICD-10 is an olive branch that must be extended to realize the full potential of ICD-10. Savvy organizations are using ICD-10 as a pathway to better hospital-physician relationships. Finally, AHIMA, MGMA and AMA have offered resources specifically designed to clear up common misconceptions and concerns physicians have about ICD-10.

No More Delays

It is estimated that the last delay cost the healthcare industry approximately $6.8 billion in lost investments, not including the cost associated with missed opportunities for better health data to improve quality of care and patient safety as mentioned above. Everyone from CMS to AHA, AMA, MGMA and HIMSS has endorsed the move to ICD-10 on October 1, 2015.

The rallying cry from hospital executives, IT directors and clinical coders is clear—no more delays! Even payers are pushing for the October 2015 date with a new consortium featuring Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Humana leading the charge. As Dennis Winkler from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan states, “ICD-10 is good for the industry. . . . It is in everyone’s best interest to work together and ensure readiness across the board.”

Be Thankful

In Mitch Albom’s 2009 New York Times best seller, Have a Little Faith, the author asks an 82-year-old rabbi to identify his secret to happiness. “Be grateful” is what the rabbi repeatedly claims to be the only true route to happiness.

So next time your executives, staff or physicians are complaining about the transition to ICD-10, remember the five reasons described above . . . and be thankful.

About Wendy Coplan-Gould
Wendy Coplan-Gould is the embodiment of HRS. She has led the HIM consulting and outsourcing company since 1979, through up and down economies and every significant regulatory twist and turn of the last three decades. Long-time clients and new clients alike are on a first-name basis with her and benefit from her focus on excellence, reliability and flexibility. She has been published in the Journal of AHIMA and other recognized publications, as well as conducted countless professional association presentations.

Prior to starting HRS, Wendy served as assistant director, then director, of Health Information Management at Baltimore City Hospital. She also was associate director of the Maryland Resource Center, which provided data for Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission, an early adopter of the Diagnosis Related Group (DRG) methodology. Wendy is available via email: wendy@hrscoding.com.

6 Thanksgiving ICD-10 Codes

Posted on November 27, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 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.

I thought it fitting that AdvancedMD sent me 6 ICD-10 codes to be thankful for. Healthcare Humor…who doesn’t enjoy that? Happy Thanksgiving!

Y93.G3 Activity, Cooking and Baking
Ah, the turkey is roasting and the potatoes are boiling. And Cousin Carl just chopped the end of his finger off while preparing the veggie tray. He will earn this ICD-10 code, along with W26.0, Contact with Knife, to forever remember this year’s Thanksgiving…and that nasty scar.

W61.42 Struck by Turkey / W71.43 Pecked by Turkey / W61.49 Other Contact with Turkey
Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey. If three is a terrible mishandling of dinner’s main dish, or if a still-flapping gobbler enacts revenge, ICD-10 has three codes that are perfect for the season’s avian-related incident.

W21.01 Struck by Football
Another Thanksgiving staple is the good ol’ American sport of football. Usually, unless there is cheering for opposing teams, televised football games are safe enough. But a well-intentioned family flag-football game can result in a quick trip to the emergency room.

R63.2 Polyphagia (Overeating)
Parrots aren’t the only ones to watch out for this season. If a vampire or zombie takes their costume a bit too seriously, this code will record the chomp.

Y04.0 Assault by Unarmed Brawl or Fight
Black Friday shopping has become just as much a part of Thanksgiving as stuffing and pumpkin pie. But this mass hysteria for great deals doesn’t come without risks—especially when there are two shoppers and only one great bargain up for grabs. Get your extreme shopping skills up to snuff or Y04.0 and Y92.59, Other trade areas (mall) as the place of occurrence of external cause, may be jotted in your electronic health records.

W21.01 Lack of Adequate Sleep
No matter how we choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, few of us escape the meal prep, early morning shopping and family togetherness without a mild case of exhaustion. For those who try to do it all, there is an ICD-10 code for that.

Now I’m off to recover from my W21.01 and R63.2. Although, let me tell you, I had one of my best Turkey Bowl days ever. So much fun! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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 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 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.

Hospital Intern Time, Why ICD10?, and EHR Satisfaction Pre-MU

Posted on April 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 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.


Everyone that reads this immediately thinks that this is a terrible thing. It seems ghastly that a doctor that’s paid to treat patients would spend so much time with an EMR vs with patients. I agree with everyone that are highest paid resource should be using as much time as possible with and treating patients. However, this study would have a lot more meaning if it was paired with a previous study that showed how much time a hospital intern spent in a paper chart. Maybe they spent 400% more time with a paper chart than direct patient contact. Then, this stat would come off looking very different. You have to always remember that you have to take into account the previous status quo.


This article and the discussion around ICD-10 was phenomenal. Passionate viewpoints on each side. It fleshed out both sides of the arguments for me really well. Too bad no one will care too much for a while.


Oh…the good old days. When everyone love EHR, because they chose to do it and so they made the most of their choice. Ok, I’m being a little facetious, but I seem to remember a study I saw that showed how much more unsatisfied doctors are with EHR today versus pre-MU. I imagine it’s not all MU’s fault, but it certainly hasn’t helped with physician EHR satisfaction.

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 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 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.

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 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 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.

#HIMSS14 Day 3 – Lack of Innovation

Posted on February 26, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 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.

On the bus ride home from the HIMSS14 party at Universal Studios, I sat next to a hospital CIO. She summed up the conference perfectly, “I’m tired, but also energized to go forward and do great things.” There you have the HIMSS conference in a beautiful nutshell.

It’s always a really great experience to come to HIMSS and interact with amazing people. As long as intelligent, smart, fun, wonderful people keep coming to HIMSS, it will be worth it for me to attend.

While I love attending, this HIMSS I was pretty disappointed with the real lack of major innovation that I found at the event. As is usually the case, I had a few people ask me what I found that was really interesting and innovative at the event. This year I didn’t really have an answer. Much of the progress we’re seeing with healthcare IT has been around building to government regulations along with incremental progress.

Of course, I will offer the disclaimer that I was only able to meet and talk with ~40-50 companies (of the ~1300 vendors) and talk to a few hundred people over the main 3 days. So, maybe there was a lot of innovation out there and I just missed it. Maybe it was in one of those hundreds of HIMSS press releases I got and I somehow missed it. However, I heard a similar sentiment from other attendees.

It’s also worth commenting that I’m in touch with many of these companies now on a regular basis. Maybe when I come to HIMSS I’m just seeing the next generation of something I’ve often seen and heard was already coming and so it doesn’t feel like much of an innovation to me. However, with a broader view it is an incredible innovation that I’m taking for granted.

Innovation or not, I can assure you that there is a cloud of regulation that’s hanging over every piece of healthcare IT. It’s overwhelming to vendors, providers, hospital organizations, and quite frankly everyone in the industry. Healthcare has always been a highly regulated world, but I think this is much more regulation than health IT has ever experienced before.

While I was sad to not see major innovations, I do think we’re making incremental progress towards a better healthcare IT future. Exchanging healthcare data is feeling closer than its ever been before. The changing payment model is likely going to drive this to reality. We’re starting down a really exciting path to turning healthcare data into information (to steal from an old IBM line). It’s still going to take a number of years for both of these items to become a standard, but it’s starting to march down that path.

I still have major concerns for the physician #EHRbacklash. Many EHR vendors are still naive to this coming backlash and many aren’t doing what they need to do to avoid it. I also think ICD-10 is going to be a major train wreck for a large portion of healthcare.

As is usually the case in life, there are good and bad things. Life is about learning to deal with both in the best way possible. I’m still as optimistic as ever about the potential of EHR and Health IT. We’re not where we should be when it comes to really getting the value out of the technology, but I am confident we will get there. One of my favorite quotes from the movie Remember the Titans sums up my views well:

You might be an #HITNerd If…

Posted on February 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 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 have flash cards with ICD 10 codes on the front and diagnoses on the back.

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

Credit: Rick Pereira

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