With hard ICD-10 deadline, physicians should voice concerns with vendors, providers

Over the last few months, health care provider groups such as the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association have doggedly pursued the easing of requirements for meaningful use and ICD-10. Through open letters and private queries, these organizations have won at least some victories in the form of increased system testing and lax attestation regulations.

There has been one facet of health care reform that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Administrator Marilyn Tavenner have remained steadfast on, however: the Oct. 1 ICD-10 deadline. At this year's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference, Information Week reported that Tavenner told the assembled health care professionals that the CMS would not consider any proposals to postpone the ICD-10 transition.

Running out of time
"There are no more delays and the system will go live on Oct 1. Let's face it guys, we've already delayed it several times and it's time to move on," Tavenner said at HIMSS14, according to InformationWeek. 

Tavenner's comments come at a time when health care organizations were calling for a three-month grace period that would allow both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes to be used in order to qualify for reimbursement payments. Without that window, some critics fear that practices will not be able to keep up with the workflow.

Talking it out
With only a few months remaining to prepare for the transition, and heavy disruptions predicted for practices with inadequately trained staffs and poorly defined protocols, Deborah Stewart, M.D., medical director at insurance provider Florida Blue, wrote a column for Healthcare Finance News. She emphasized the need for physician practices to communicate with their vendors and associated provider organizations to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Stewart recommended that practices urge their vendors to test their billing systems inside and out, often in conjunction with the payer organization, before the deadline. If any obstacles are found, they can be more easily worked through now rather than minutes to midnight of the deadline. Stewart and Florida Blue have been conducting tests with providers and vendors since 2013, and she sees her workplace worrying less about the transition because of it.

While it may seem odd for practices to initiate testing for a new medical billing system that will largely operate out of their hands, Stewart explained that it is in everybody's best interest to work together to ensure a smooth transition. By testing early and exhaustively, vendors will be more likely to iron out issues with their systems, and practices will be more likely to get paid on time.