Survey suggests health care providers confident in ICD-10 preparation efforts

More so than meaningful use requirements, the transition to the new system of ICD-10 billing codes has posed numerous headaches for medical professionals concerned about their organizations' preparation for the Oct. 1 deadline. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has unequivocally stated that it would not be postponing the transition, which puts the onus on health care professionals to ensure that the necessary processes are in place to guarantee efficient use of the new systems.

While the ICD-10 transition may be posing troubles for some organizations, the American Academy of Family Physicians released a survey that indicated a high degree of confidence among several of the U.S.'s largest health care providers regarding their preparations for the ICD-10 changeover. While these large-scale organizations felt confident in the time and resources they have put into their pre-switch planning, they recommended that smaller practices learn from their experiences to smooth out the transition as much as possible.

Gauging the crowd
According to a survey conducted by the AAFP that asked representatives from UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield and Humana to rank their confidence in their organizations' readiness for the upcoming ICD-10 transition, all of these major plans indicated that they would indeed be ready to leave ICD-9 behind with little impact to their workflows and bottom lines when the times comes in early October. 

"Payers want this transition to run smoothly, too," Laura Schmidt, private sector advocacy strategist for AAFP and main author of the survey said. "They've invested a lot of time and money into the ICD-10 implementation, just as family physicians have. The bottom line is that no business, big or small, involved in this effort can afford a slowdown in its billing and payment processes."

Christopher Jagmin, senior medical director for Aetna, told the AAFP that his organization began internal testing and a small amount of external evaluations for the ICD-10 transition in 2013 and had already codified plans to continue those efforts throughout 2014.

"We plan to use what we learned from our testing as we work with all of our providers and vendors in coming months," Jagmin said. "We are evaluating the best communication mechanisms for sharing our testing results industry-wide."

Sharing and learning
This commitment to sharing test results from ICD-10 preparations may prove critical for smaller practices that find they do not have the time or resources to dedicate to comprehensive internal system evaluations. 

ICD-10monitor shared an exhaustive write-up of the experience of several health care organizations during the CMS' acknowledgement testing week, and small practices that maintain awareness of the possible issues that can arise during the first few weeks of ICD-10 implementation may have smoother transitions overall.

Some of the problems that ICD-10monitor noticed were issues with patient account creation and longer wait times for acknowledgements when submitting claims through a third-party Medicare administrative contractor. The health care professionals interviewed by ICD-10monitor advocated longer preparation times for future testing opportunities.

Tips for small practices
Unfortunately, direct testing with the CMS may not be available to some small practices. The agency will be conducting end-to-end evaluations of its systems with some large providers later in the summer, but practices of only a few physicians will need to make use of other avenues of preparation to ensure a smooth transition.

Becker's Hospital Review provided several tips for practices looking to prepare before Oct. 1. The first few weeks of ICD-10 use may only require certain codes that practices only use the most frequently, allowing them to cut back on the number of new codes they must prepare for. Also, small practices should take advantage of the numerous training materials and seminars conducted by the CMS, as there can be no better source to learn from than the agency in charge of the transition.