HHS confirms ICD-10 delay: What does it mean for you?

HCPRO Website, February 16, 2012

By Andrea Kraynak, CPC

It’s no longer a mere possibility; HHS has confirmed its intent to delay the ICD-10 compliance deadline, according to its latest press release.

“We have heard from many in the provider community who have concerns about the administrative burdens they face in the years ahead,” HHS Secretary Kathleen G. Sebelius said in the press release. “We are committing to work with the provider community to reexamine the pace at which HHS and the nation implement these important improvements to our healthcare system.”

It is “premature” to speculate on the rulemaking process or the eventual ICD-10 implementation deadline, a CMS spokesman told HCPro earlier today.

The American Medical Association (AMA) supports the delay. “The timing of the ICD-10 transition could not be worse for physicians as they are spending significant financial and administrative resources implementing electronic health records in their practices and trying to comply with multiple quality and health information technology programs that include penalties for noncompliance,” Peter W. Carmel, MD, president of the AMA, said in a February 16 press release.

Though the new deadline remains unclear, CMS previously confirmed CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s statement that the agency will use the rulemaking process when revisiting the ICD-10 implementation timeline. The rulemaking process can be lengthy, so it may well be awhile before a firm date is established.

For those who may not agree that a long delay—or any at all—may be the best course of action, continue to monitor the rulemaking and take advantage of any comment period.

“Make CMS well aware of the facts regarding your current ICD-10 progress and the overwhelming burdens that any delay would create,” said Debbie Mackaman, RHIA, CHCO, regulatory specialist for HCPro, Inc., in Danvers, MA.

In the meantime, providers are left scratching their heads regarding their own next steps.

The advice from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is clear: Keep moving forward. Per AHIMA’s February 14 press release, the organization “encouraged the healthcare community to continue to prepare for the ICD-10 transition and not delay or suspend efforts to meet the ICD-10 current compliance deadline.”

AHIMA’s press release came out prior to today’s official confirmation that it is definitely HHS’ intention to delay the ICD-10 deadline. With this latest development, does AHIMA maintain that continued preparation is the best course of action in light of the delay?

The answer is yes, according to Dan Rode, MBA, CHPS, FHFMA, vice president for advocacy and policy at AHIMA. “It is still important for organizations to move forward,” Rode told HCPro. “This delay should not stop implementation...”

Rode also indicates that, even with a delay, providers should continue to consider ICD-10 when it comes to matters such as purchasing new systems. If they don’t have the capability to handle ICD-10, the costs of implementation will continue to mount, he said.

Others agree that forward progress is essential.

"I agree with the position to continue efforts until which time we get an actual date change,” said Gloryanne Bryant, RHIA, CCS, CCDS, regional managing director of HIM, NCAL revenue cycle, at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. & Hospitals in Oakland, CA. “There is much to keep us busy with ICD-10 readiness, thus staying with your plan is the best approach for now."

Specifically, hospitals should continue to ensure they will be able to handle all documentation collection and use associated with ICD-10, Rode said. “The real question is should those who are trained to train others and our many academic programs stop their training and retain their knowledge during this time period,” he says. “In the end, this will greatly expand the cost of conversion.”

Some have suggested that perhaps there is wisdom in waiting until the rest of the world implements ICD-11, simply skipping over ICD-10 entirely. Rode disagrees with this notion. “We are not close to ICD-11 and we can’t afford to wait until the end of the decade to have the data we need today to improve health and healthcare,” he said.

Nor is it possible to delay enforcement of the deadline, as CMS did with the HIPAA version 5010 implementation deadline that passed earlier this year. There can’t be two vocabularies in use at the same time, he said. “Allowances could be made for those who have to hold data until their system is in place, but there has to be a certain date.”

And that implementation date should be sooner rather than later, according to AHIMA.

“The longer [the delay,] the worse the problem becomes for many of HHS’ projects across the board,” Rode said.

Editor’s note: Visit www.hcpro.com for the latest information on the delay of the ICD-10 compliance deadline.

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