ICD-10: What are physicians so afraid of?

The ICD-10 has become increasingly feared within the health care industry over the years. Many experts say that it is the anticipation of the new codes that have made ICD-10 so daunting. With so many delays in the past, many physicians feel that there will be another postponement, finding it difficult to take the implementation date of Oct. 1, 2015, seriously. As a result, many providers are reluctant to start the training process.

Why do physicians fear ICD-10?
According to EHR Intelligence, health care professionals fear the implementation of ICD-10 for many reasons. A few of such are increased mandates, expenses, work and the introduction of many new complications that could end up reducing the quality of patient care.  

However, the American Health Information Management Association recently conducted a study that highlighted the primary root of the fear centered around ICD-10. The organization placed physicians in a series of focus groups and asked what scared them most about the new codes. Many expressed an intense fear of how their practices will handle the drastic change. The large-scale alterations that must be made in order to ensure documentation is up to standard with full detail and specificity is what is causing most health care professionals to worry. These changes could potentially impact practice workflow and reimbursement.

The AHIMA's research also found that, although physicians are worried about Oct. 1, they are not working too hard to prepare for it. Most are relying on a wait-and-see approach with the intention of tackling potential problems that may arise from documentation issues as they come. Many of the providers in the focus groups blamed their lack of preparedness on the poor access to educational tools, resources and guides that would give them practice with the new documentation processes that are set to emerge. The majority of the participants in each focus group also agreed that providers who see complex patients and deal with a significant number of procedures will have the most trouble with ICD-10.

What do physicians think?
The report released by the AHIMA listed several quotes by physicians participating in the focus groups. 

"I have not done anything except read an article or two about how codes are going to increase in ICD-10," one participant said. "I am relying on my billing service to do that. With respect to the hospital, they have not really given us any formal training for ICD-10 at all."

The research showed that a good deal of providers are not willing to spend such a large amount of time and effort training for changes like ICD-10, despite any anxiety they may have toward it. According to many participants, a set of materials that will engage physicians is crucial to getting them to start taking a more positive view on the idea of training.

Some providers liked the idea of hiring a clinical documentation improvement or health information management professional to develop educational programs and train physicians on ICD-10 issues. However, there were others who feared that hospitals with a HIM department would only spend money on training for inpatient coding, ignoring outpatient coding.

"Hospital coding is totally depending on ICD-9 and as they convert to 10, they will do the training [for inpatient]. But that is inpatient. What about outpatient? The hospital will train you as they have a vested interest. For outpatient, I don't know," said another physician.

What do providers want?
Physicians hope that billing partners will provide enhanced training as Oct. 1 approaches, assisting them in learning the new language that comes with ICD-10 implementation. Participants in the study also included that they would benefit from "ICD-10 for Dummies" or a list of the top ten reasons claims get rejected. A lot of providers said that they would rely on HIM professionals or on CDI experts offering outsourcing services for assistance in training as well. 

Physicians also pointed to the previous delays as the reason for the growing fear of the dreaded date. ICD-10 has quickly turned into one of the most intimidating aspects of the health care industry, yet many providers want to view the changes as a positive development. To get to this point, most health care professionals feel that available resources need to be more helpful. Simple articles and documents that make the new codes and procedures easier to grasp would go a long way as far as the majority of participants were concerned.  

Even the participants who had not begun to really prepare or train yet agreed that the best course of action is to bite the bullet and start training now instead of hoping for another delay, as this could cause serious problems within a practice. Although it will take time, there are resources currently available for physicians worried about making the switch. If taken advantage of, ICD-10 will start to seem more achievable and less daunting.