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ICD-10 deadline tests mettle of nation's hospitals

CFO plays a key role as organizations prepare to speak a new language.

John Andrews, Contributor

There is no reason to believe the date will be put off any more, said Craig Greenberg.There is no reason to believe the date will be put off any more, said Craig Greenberg.

Although we’ve heard “no more delays” from CMS before about the deadline for ICD-10 conversion only to see it postponed again, healthcare decision-makers should treat Oct. 1, 2015, as a set-in-stone launch date, industry analysts say.

There is no reason to believe the date will be put off any more, said Craig Greenberg, national practice director for advisory services at Weymouth, Massachusetts-based Beacon Partners.

“We are advising clients to move forward with momentum,” he said. “Now that we are inside the 12-month time frame, we anticipate organizations to have a renewed focus on preparations for ICD-10 implementation.”

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[Also: #ICD10Matters picks up momentum on social media]

Apart from marshaling the necessary personnel and technology resources, healthcare organizations need to look at how to financially prepare for the switchover to minimize the impact of potential revenue losses that could result, Greenberg said.

“Industry projections are for a 30 to 40 percent dip in revenue based on things an organization can partly control and can’t control at all,” he said. “Getting ready is something that can be controlled, but other things, like getting properly compensated, present greater challenges.”

Dave Nesvisky, executive director of healthcare for Sunnyvale, California-based NetApp, agrees that ICD-10 preparation is “not so much an infrastructure or equipment issue as it is a couple really big HR issues in two buckets.” Not only will revenue decrease, but productivity could fall by 50 percent after the deadline, he said.

“There should be extensive training for staff. ICD-10 is far more complex than ICD-9 and there is a steep learning curve,” Nesvisky said. “And you really don’t want a learning curve linked to your ability to get paid.”

Getting priorities straight

When the ICD-10 implementation date got moved ahead a year to Oct. 1, 2015, there were sighs of relief from those who weren’t ready and consternation from those who had worked exhaustively to make the deadline. When the announcement to delay came in April 2014, it caused some organizations to shift their focus away from ICD-10 to other things, said Bob Witkop, solution manager for Information Technology/IT Operations at Dallas-based CTG Health Solutions.

[Also: Tell us how you are preparing for ICD-10]

“Clearly the delay hasn’t saved anyone anything,” he said. “If anything, it caused a lot of redundancy and resource shifts. What was ‘Priority Number One’ got shuffled around.”

For the CFO, ICD-10 preparation comes down to ensuring that contracts are clear, areas of risk are identified, credit lines are determined and testing is scheduled. And there are plenty of variables affecting long-term capital, Witkop said. “There might be benchmarks out there relative to this, but in my mind it’s specific to the needs of each organization. There might be a physician office that goes weeks while a multi-facility operation with a strong line of credit could go much longer.”

A new language

Greenberg said the ICD-10 transition will test the mettle of organizations.

Communication across the enterprise is a key facet to keeping staff apprised, focused and motivated to make the deadline, he said.

 “It is so important to let everyone know where the organization stands with its preparation, why ICD-10 is necessary and what it means,” he said. “Just getting it on the radar lets departments know what they need to be doing.”

Some departments have gotten creative, posting Countdown Clocks, wearing badges that say “Ask Me About ICD-10” and informing the public about the initiative through the media.

The message about ICD-10 should be that “this isn’t a ‘nice thing to have;’ it’s about submitting claims in a new language,” Greenberg said.

 “When you go home on Sept. 30 and come in on Oct. 1, the expectation is that staff feel comfortable speaking two very different languages, ICD-9 and ICD-10.”