ICD-10 Code Adoption: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

By Heather A. Haugen PhD. for HealthBiz Decoded

Fundamental change has arrived in healthcare, occupying center stage in our politically polarized world. Care providers who have dedicated their lives to helping others may feel that these are the worst of times as they struggle to adapt to new mandates. But in fact – because healthcare is receiving new funding to update ancient technologies, and because the national agenda continues to focus on issues driving the cost and quality of care – healthcare may actually be experiencing the best of times.

The impending change in coding requirements for reporting medical diagnoses and inpatient procedures presents just such an inflection point. A government mandate to adopt ICD-10 code sets by October 1, 2014 demands a new level of responsibility beyond the traditional provider role.

ICD-10 requires a commitment to something greater than meeting a deadline to adopt a new coding system. Healthcare leaders who fully understand the magnitude of change in documentation and coding will reap the benefits, and in the course of doing so, will build competencies in large-scale organizational change, a strategic differentiator in a rapidly evolving healthcare industry.

Healthcare organizations should consider a completely new approach to help advance the preparation of people and providers for the inevitable introduction of ICD-10, encompassing five essential assertions:

1. Don’t wait: Prepare today. Full clinical adoption must trump the risk abatement approach that comes with a typical mandate. In fact, providers must aggressively prepare for the changes in terms of the provider’s new role. Those who take the opportunity to prepare today will be the lucky ones come October 2014; the unlucky will be those who hoped the mandate would just go away.

2. Positioning is critical. Expect significant resistance to the idea that providers are now responsible for coding. Lead passionately, with an emphasis on improving the quality and accuracy of reporting data and public health surveillance. Remember that ICD-10 allows us to fulfill the responsibility we have to become the most knowledgeable providers of quality care.

3. Appeal to the provider’s intellect. Critical thinking must outweigh emotion as we consider the change in the provider role. Prepare to fully examine this new system that demands we change our old methods of clinical documentation and workflow. By addressing the complexities of ICD-10 at a systematic level, help the provider fully accept its positive impact along with the new more granular level of responsibility.

4. Address fear head on. Misinformation and propaganda about ICD-10 fuels the already reticent provider, allowing fear to overpower reason. A leadership plan to supply facts and data on the true impact to the provider will greatly reduce fear and support the process of change.

5. Invest wisely and early in training and communication. The provider must learn new coding requirements and understand the overall plan to adopt ICD-10. Size the new skill requirements by role to demonstrate that learning a new workflow is not as daunting as providers might initially believe. Address the new training requirements with an emphasis on the ongoing obligation to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.

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