Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Why Postponing ICD-10 Compliance Deadline Causes Setback

By Vera Gruessner

Due to the legislative motions and prior delays to the ICD-10 compliance deadline, there are many healthcare organizations across the country that may not have made as much progress in preparing for the new medical coding set scheduled to begin on October 1, 2015. Even over the last few weeks, Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced a bill into the House that called for putting an end to the ICD-10 transition altogether.

There has been a fair amount of speculation as to the need for the new medical codes throughout the political spectrum and the delays from the last two years have also brought many medical facilities to doubt whether the current ICD-10 compliance deadline will stand still.

The Journal of AHIMA reports that the ICD-10 delays have set back some organizations financially and led them to lose their momentum. Janis Leonard, RHIT, CCS, director of HIM at Albany Medical Center, told the source that any more pushback against the ICD-10 compliance deadline including a postponement would cause severe disruption and a monetary hit due to all of the funds the medical system invested in ICD-10 training among their staff.

Leonard said that if another delay to the ICD-10 compliance deadline were to occur, it “would be tough to re-engage.” The Albany Medical Center is working toward ensuring that ICD-10 conversion on October 1 is a go and that another postponement does not take place.

“Even the director of patient financial services sent a letter to our Congressmen recently again saying ‘do not delay,’ so we have our financial people as well as our coders engaged in that initiative,” Leonard told the news source.

Additionally, physicians at this particular organization have been supporting the transition toward ICD-10 coding from the beginning and are conducting ongoing documentation improvement initiatives.

Online modules are also being used to offer more training opportunities for medical coders to ensure they are prepared for the ICD-10 transition. In particular, more training information on medical terminology, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology is being offered at Albany Medical Center to ensure coders will be able to handle the increased specificity of the ICD-10 diagnostic codes.

For more than a year, Leonard and her team focused on dual coding throughout the organization requiring coders to use both ICD-9 and ICD-10 for coding 10 percent of a workday’s cases. Additionally, weekly training sessions are offered where coders can use ICD-10 to code scenarios and review their work with an instructor.

When it comes to retaining a strong workforce of medical coders within a healthcare facility, Albany Medical Center focused on restructuring the career ladder and offering more incentives.

“When we did this, we based [the job positions] on new qualifications, credentials and experience, and we swaddled people into their new roles,” stated Leonard. “And more than half of coders received an increase in pay. We also provided a recruitment and a retention bonus that was paid out over two years with a work commitment of two years to incentivize our coders to stick around after ICD-10 [transition].”

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