Rather than giving breathing room, the government’s announcement about an ICD-10 implementation delay “for certain providers” is creating industry confusion, panelists at HIMSS12 said. “People don’t know what to do now,” said Keith Olenik, interim system director, Cook County Health System, Chicago. “The Department of Health and Human Services has added another layer of complexity to something already difficult to do.”

In its announcement, HHS said it would begin a process to delay the Oct. 2013 deadline for the new coding system. But at this point it’s unclear how long any delay would be or who would be affected. And that is throwing sand into the gears at payers and providers attempting to prepare for the new coding system. “If we delay our effort now, we won’t hit the target date,” said Joanne Romasko, director of medical economics, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana.

The payer completed its ICD-10 impact analysis in 2010 and purchased mapping software last year, she said. In the next two years, the payer had planned to configure its systems to be compatible with ICD-10 and then in 2013 begin testing. More than 150 systems are affected, and will need to be remediated in some way, Romasko said.

Olenik laid out a checklist of preparatory steps providers should take, emphasizing the importance of querying vendors on their conversion timeline, plans for testing, and impact on old service level agreements. Romasko noted that BCBS Montana is still analyzing whether its vendors will require system upgrades, replacements or merely patches to  become ICD-10 compliant. A delay in the ICD-10 compliance date also could set back vendor conversion strategies, the speakers noted.

Already ICD-10 is taking a back seat to meaningful use preparation at Cook County, Olenik observed.

 

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