Meaningful use of electronic health records is getting a lot of attention for obvious reasons, but some stakeholders worry that other pressing issues aren't getting the focus they need.

In fact, meaningful use is having a huge impact on provider willingness or ability to take significant steps this year to get ready for transition to the ICD-10 code sets, says Mark Williams, a partner at consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That's worrisome for a couple reasons, Williams notes. The Department of Health and Human Services previously issued guidance that organizations should complete internal testing of the new and mandated HIPAA 5010 transaction set--a precursor to implementing ICD-10--by the end of 2010. That gives a full year for organizations to test the transactions with trading partners before the Jan. 1, 2012, compliance deadline for 5010.

But there's a feeling among many in the industry that they have time to prepare for the far more complex adoption of ICD-10 because of an assumption that HHS will delay the Oct. 1, 2013, compliance date. That's not a good assumption to make, Williams says. "I haven't heard HHS waiver one inch."

For Eric Saff, CIO at John Muir Health in Walnut Creek, Calif., the worry is that the buzz around meaningful use is buzzing out forthcoming changes in the Medicare program.

Saff sees Medicare managed care advancing quickly. But many hospitals aren't preparing the processes and technologies to be ready for a major shift in risk sharing. Saff works in a state heavy with managed care and warns that preparations take a long time and need to start now.

Williams and Saff both talked with Health Data Management during the HIMSS 2010 Conference & Exhibition in Atlanta.

--Joseph Goedert

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