When it comes to preparing for the conversion to the ICD-10 coding system, Partners HealthCare System in Boston is ahead of many providers.

It jumped on the project shortly after the federal government issued its formal notice of the conversion to the billing and documentation system in January 2009. As part of its strategy, Partners formed an executive sponsorship group of the integrated delivery system's top management, including John Glaser, the enterprise CIO. That group, in turn, oversees a number of other committees devoted to ensuring the conversion to the new nomenclature proceeds smoothly.

One of those committee members, Bernice Von Saleski, described the highly matrixed effort at the 2010 ICD-10 Summit, sponsored by the American Health Information Management Association and taking place this week in Washington. In the effort, local hospital groups must report back to the executive leaders about progress on such fronts as systems inventories and budget planning. "I feel like we're on reality TV," quipped Saleski, who introduced her talk with pom-poms to suggest the level of enthusiasm needed to tackle such a large effort.

But Saleski underscored the need to go well beyond fun and games to make the transition. "You need leverage," she told the crowd of nearly 200. That's why top decision-makers drive Partners' effort, she explained. The delivery system created detailed position responsibilities and timelines for the various departments--which span finance, compliance, and information systems--that are part of the effort. "If you don't spell things out, there will be confusion," Saleski said.

She described how the organization keeps a scorecard of member hospitals, using a color-coded chart. It's a major effort, she said, but one that can result in a solid inventory of current practices--and the information systems needed to support them.

--Gary Baldwin


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