The healthcare industry takes another one of those pivotal steps forward today, as ICD-10 coding becomes the lingua franca for communicating about the conditions of patients, and the care they’ve received.

Like many other pivotal events, much work has preceded the change. Most healthcare organizations discovered early on that the transition to ICD-10 was not just something for the coding department to worry about. It contains stresses and strains for nearly every facet of operations within healthcare organizations. Because of declining margins, and because ICD-10 affects how care is reimbursed, optimizing the use of ICD-10—and continually improving—will be crucial for providers.

As October 1 dawns, healthcare organizations will begin that transitional journey. Health Data Management has been covering this change to ICD-10 for years, and here provides some guidance for this day—and the days that follow—culled from our sources, our articles and industry organizations.

Be ready for short-term declines in productivity. Have additional coders, or support for coders, in hand for help in the initial days when ICD-10 coding becomes coders’ full-time focus, advises the American Hospital Association.

Know which key performance indicators matter to your organization. Teresa Benavidez’s article for Health Data Management outlines some of the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) to track in order to tell how your organization is handling the transition in the days ahead.

Don’t forget “hidden” lines of business. It’s easy to become consumed by worry about whether major payers, such as Medicare, Medicaid and your largest insurers, will be completely ready. Don’t forget other trading partners that your organization regularly transacts with – workers compensation, automobile insurers or other liability carriers that are not covered by HIPAA. The AHA suggests you check to make sure their transitioning to ICD-10 and understand what needs to be done to limit payment delays from these payers.

Keep communication flowing. As the results of the transition to ICD-10 unfold, it’s crucial for all involved to identify problems as quickly as possible and share information up and down the chain of command. Several solid suggestions were shared in an expert panel that HDM published, with details of how four IT executives were handling communications on and immediately after October 1. It’s worth a quick review to compare with your own plans.

Get ready for “war” but keep troop morale high. When challenges arise, it’s time for leaders to visibly provide direction, says Stephen Stewart, interim CIO at Schuykill Health Systems, Pottsville, Pa.And October 1 will be a nervous day for many, so get ready to provide support, says Debbie Schrubb, Corporate Director of Health Information Management and Kettering Physician Network Coding at Kettering Health Network. “Not only are we going to do a war room for the coders, our clinical documentation specialists are going to be doing the same thing,” Schrubb says. “For them, October 1 is probably more critical than it is for us, because we know we won't be coding much that day. But we probably should make sure that we test code a couple of accounts on October 1, just to be sure that things are working so we don't wait until Sunday to find out that something's wrong.”

More advice from the panel can be found here.

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