The deadline for implementation of the new medical code set is just days away. Several healthcare IT executives recently talked about the steps they’ll take on October 1 and in the days and weeks that immediately follow to ensure their organizations’ success.

Health Data Management recently conducted a web seminar on final preparations for ICD-10. Topics covered in the seminar provide important suggestions for providers getting ready for October 1. Moderated by HDM Editor Fred Bazzoli, those participating in the seminar included:

  • Aaron Miri, CIO at Walnut Hill Medical Center.
  • Jean McCammack, Chief Quality Officer at Walnut Hill Medical Center.
  • Debbie Schrubb, Corporate Director of Health Information Management and Kettering Physician Network Coding at Kettering Health Network.
  • Stephen Stewart, Interim CIO at Schuylkill Health Systems in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

Fred Bazzoli: We're moving on to the week or the day of October 1. Is there anything special that you should be doing that week? And what are your plans for the first day of the transition? Debbie, you mentioned a war room.

Debbie Schrubb: 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. 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.

The first week of October, we're going to be handing out coding books to our coders, and we're going to give them what we're calling a “survival bag” with some Tylenol, some encouraging quotes, and a gas card--just something to get the excitement going and let them know we're here to support them.

Stephen Stewart: Well, I thought about taking vacation, but that was overruled.

One of the biggest concerns for our coders is, what if they don't have the information they need to do the job right? So we're trying to make sure that we've got the resources in place to help them follow up on the things that they need, and to work with our physicians to make sure they have the information they need.

Besides that, we're catering lunches and doing other things to keep morale up, because it's going to be a tough couple of weeks, particularly coming out of the block.

Jean McCammack: We're doing something very similar, in that our focus that week is going to be on using it as a positive experience, and we will probably do a lot of one-on-ones with our physicians to help them understand why we're questioning them about documentation, why we're asking for the specificity, and why it's important to all of us. I like the idea of goodie bags for coders, so I'm going to be using that one as well.

Aaron Miri: Our senior leadership team is very used to looking at daily metrics in terms of cash, A/R, all those sorts of things. So, the communication, definitely, will be around those metrics, and if there are any blips, any hiccups at all, we will focus on immediately rooting out what's going on. What we're doing is, No. 1., proactively making sure that the senior leadership team is aware of the efforts that have been going on around ICD-10, and then, No. 2, on the day of and the week of the transition, to really home in on any blip at all, no matter what it is, and determine if it’s related to ICD-10 or not. If so, what's going on? What's the remediation?

Bazzoli: October 1 will be a big day for all of us. As you get past that day and start actively coding in ICD-10, what should folks be watching for? What are you going to do in the event there are problems with the transition?

McCammack: Our HIM director is planning some pretty extensive hours and support backup for our coders. We want to make sure that any issue is addressed immediately, and we'll pull together our command center as well. We’re also aware that we may try to fix an issue for one person or one process, and it turns around and hurts something else. So, we’re going to ensure whatever it is we're fixing on the fly, it doesn't take the system down.

Schrubb: We're going to be doing the daily status emails and in which we'll be covering all the revenue cycle points. So, that's patient access, the HIM coding piece, and then the billing side. And in that status report we'll be identifying any issues that we have, what we're doing about those issues, where they've been reported, and whether or not we need help. That status report email is going to our VPs of finance across our network, as well as some other key executives.

The coding support is going to be critical. We're asking our staff to work six days a week for the month of October so we can really get a great handle on how things are going.

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