Half of practices holding out for ICD-10 delay

While readiness survey after readiness survey paint similarly bleak ICD-10 landscapes, none has quite captured how widespread the procrastination appears to be among medical practices.

Picture 50 percent indicating their intention to wait until May 2014 to even begin making preparations for the code set conversion.

That’s according to the second installment of Navicure’s ICD-10 readiness survey, which also revealed that some 3 percent of physicians are not planning on preparing for ICD-10 at all.

And while vendor surveys should always be taken with a grain of salt, the collective hunch that either the Department of Health and Human Services or Congress might push the deadline back further  “is a reason physicians aren't engaged,” Ken Bradley, vice president of strategic planning and regulatory compliance for Navicure, told Medical Practice Insider. “Key though is that this is physicians' belief, not necessarily the belief of practice administration."

Part of the problem, as Bradley sees it, is the lack of communication and transparency creating a sort of transition chaos.

“Practices are generally left holding the bag when payers and CMS or other regulatory agencies make last-minute changes or didn’t permit an adequate level of testing, things like that,” Bradley said.

And to be clear, Bradley noted, it’s not just CMS that should be held to this transparency standard — vendors and health plans must do their part as well.

“What we’re worried about is that CMS may say that they’re not going to enforce the transition timeline,” Bradley said. “In that situation, providers would have to deal with much more processing using both ICD-9 and ICD-10 post-transition, which would add to costs and the potential for mistakes.”

Whereas many practice managers are likely dreading ICD-10, experts like Joseph Nichols — a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, WEDI co-chair, author, former CEO and current industry consultant — are saying the transition won’t be as bad as it seems. 

Nichols debunked some of the ICD-10 hardship hype in a Florida Blue webinar ("Why ICD-10 May Not Be As Difficult As Some May Believe"), which was highlighted in ICD10Watch last week.

Alongside informing clients that the compliance date will probably remain Oct. 1, Navicure is also prompting 70 percent of practices — those that, according to the survey, haven’t begun to prepare for ICD-10 yet — to draw up specific prep plans.

If after viewing these lists, practices believe they can make the changes in five months starting in May, then they’ll at least have a strategy ready, Bradley said.

Others will opt to start sooner.

Trying to dissuade practices intent on rolling dice with the timeline may be a futile exercise. But the reality is that even for those hold-outs, so long as they plan accordingly, there's a chance they may still be able to meet the mandate.