Congress may have blindsided the healthcare industry by delaying the ICD-10 code sets for at least a year, but there is real opportunity now for providers to get more benefit from the code sets than they otherwise may have.

That’s the view of Ed Hock and Jim Lazarus, both managing directors of revenue cycle solutions at The Advisory Board Company, a consultancy. And the benefits can start this year if providers who had embarked on clinical documentation improvement programs keep it up rather than putting the effort on hold for a while. “Continuing to invest in CDI is a no-regret tactic for providers,” Lazarus says.

Having more time to focus on improving documentation is a way to drive financial returns today, and the returns will get better when ICD-10 finally comes, the consultants are telling clients. “That message is what every CFO immediately attaches to,” Hock says.

The delay also gives more time to ramp up dual coding processes so payments keep being made based on ICD-9 codes but with providers also able to analyze what actual reimbursement will be under ICD-10 codes. That brings more visibility into reimbursement impacts than many providers would have had if the October 1, 2014, compliance deadline remained in place.

Now, providers can minimize a significant financial impact by making changes in documentation and revenue cycle processes, as well as staffing. Lazarus and Hock advise providers to continue investments in CDI specialists and coders.

A story in the June issue of Health Data Management will examine what happens next as the industry faces another delay in transitioning to ICD-10.

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