Physician, technology groups clash on ICD-10

February 8, 2012

One major group is fighting the switch, and another is urging its members not to wait. Learn the reasoning behind their positions.

Physician organizations and healthcare technology trade groups are clashing on how to prepare for ICD-10 implementation as the deadline draws closer. One major group is fighting the switch, and another is urging its members not to wait.

The American Medical Association (AMA) asked lawmakers and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to postpone the implementation of ICD-10, whereas the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) urged the healthcare community to continue preparing for the transition. The deadline for organizations to switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 is October 1, 2013.

The transition to the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases has been pushed back by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since 2009. An even newer version, ICD-11, will be ready for use in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.

James L. Madara, MD, the AMA's executive vice president and chief executive officer, wrote to Congress and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that ICD-10 implementation should be halted and stakeholders should find “an appropriate replacement for ICD-9 [that] will help to keep adoption of [electronic health records] and physician participation in quality and health IT programs on track and reduce costly burdens on physician practices.” He said that the transition to ICD-10 and its 68,000 codes, a more than fivefold increase from the current 13,000 codes, would create significant burdens on the practice of medicine with no direct benefit to individual patient care.

AHIMA, however, warned its membership that Congress may not halt or slow ICD-10 implementation.

“If healthcare providers stop their ICD-10 planning and implementation now and wait to see if Congress will take action, they will not be ready in time for the compliance date,” Dan Rode, AHIMA vice president for advocacy and policy,said in a statement.

Currently medical practices, healthcare delivery systems, and payers use the 35-year-old ICD-9 classification system. AHIMA says that ICD-9 is not keeping up with medical knowledge and new disease factors, limiting health data that can be used to improve patient care.

Meanwhile, healthcare organizations say their highest priorities in preparing for the transition to ICD-10 are improving physician documentation and charge capture processes, according to survey results released in January by software firm PatientKeeper Inc.

Physician documentation was listed by 65.2% of respondents as the most important revenue cycle-related business process to improve for the transition to ICD-10. Only half (50.9%) said they currently use a fully electronic charge capture system at their organization, and one in five (19.5%) still use only paper.

The online survey, fielded by PatientKeeper in late November and early December, drew 173 responses from finance, billing, and coding professionals at hospitals and practice groups nationwide.

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