delay icd10Despite campaigns by AHIMA and other healthcare IT groups, the Senate voted 64 to 35 in the eleventh hour Monday to delay the transition to ICD-10 to at least October 2015. The delay was included in a bill providing a short-term fix to the SGR. The bill goes now to President Obama’s desk for signature, and the general consensus is that he will probably sign it.

Physician opposition to another temporary solution for the SGR was strong, but a more permanent solution was shot down after Republicans in the House included a delay to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in the bill. In addition to the ICD-10 delay, the bill also delays compliance with the controversial “two-midnight rule” affecting hospitals and recovery audits of medically unnecessary claims until March 2015. The AMA, along with other physician groups, had strongly opposed another temporary fix in spite of their long opposition to the ICD-10 transition.

Where does that leave us?

Karen Blanchette, president of PAHCOM, put it well in her statement, when she encouraged practices “to use the additional time wisely and build on the training you and your practice have acquired.  For some this is a welcome opportunity to get on track.  A recent survey showed that the vast majority of practices would likely lose significant revenues if they needed to transition in 2014 as they had failed to properly prepare.”

MediTouch has been ICD-10 ready since the end of 2013, with both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes ready to use in the software. We also encourage medical practices to take advantage of the additional time to train and prepare for ICD-10—the best course is not to sit back for another year until time is running out.

Although there is already some rumbling that we should “just wait for ICD-11,” that is not realistic. ICD-11 will not be ready until approximately 2025. In the meantime, healthcare leaders will still push for better data for population health management.

What does this botched deployment of ICD-10 tell you about our government? Not anything we did not already know. With regard to healthcare, our government is not reliable.

  1. For providers that were looking for a SGR fix that rewards them for high quality care, they lost. In addition, every provider is now in the same stressful situation regarding SGR patches: each year they wonder how and when the government will permanently fix the problem.

  2. Providers that already spent on ICD-10 will probably end up spending more because of the lack of continuity related to their implementation.

  3. This change artificially blurs the line between reliable vendors and those that are constantly struggling to meet important deadlines. Remember, if your vendor is currently having difficulty with ICD-10 or Stage 2 Meaningful Use, it is a not so subtle indicator that they will continue to struggle with the next new program and that they are as unreliable as our federal government.

How does this decision impact your practice?

  1. If your software is already ICD-10 ready, we encourage you to continue to become proficient with the codes over the next year so that you will be ready for the 2015 implementation date. ICD-10 will eventually have a significant impact to your practice’s bottom line. This extension affords you the time to treat it more like a marathon than a sprint, but you must continue to prepare.

  2. If you are shopping for software, make sure that it is already ICD-10 ready; choosing a vendor that is prepared today will afford you the lead time you need to properly prepare for 2015.

  3. Spend any extra time this ICD-10 delay affords your practice on getting better at Stage 2 Meaningful Use, but don’t forget to continue to slowly introduce new workflows in your practice that will support the eventual switchover to the new coding system.