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Deadline ICD-10: Y2K all over again?

By Greg Moore There are fi ve critical areas to address when planning the shift to ICD-10.


he deadline set by the Department of Health and Human Services for U.S. health records systems to implement the International Sta- tistical Classifi cation of Diseases and Related

Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) is Sept. 30, 2013. But ICD-10 is considered by many experts to be the Y2K of the U.S. healthcare industry – and just as the computer industry had to mobilize a massive effort to avoid the consequences of inaction, health- care providers have just three years to undertake the systems overhaul needed to make the change.

ICD-10 is coming,

whether your organization is prepared for it or not.

The usefulness of moving to ICD-10 (growing from the current 17,000 numeric codes to more than 141,000 alpha-numeric codes) lies in the granularity of information that can be provided on diseases and their treatment, potentially leading to more effective tracking of outbreaks, better and more timely treat- ments and even cost savings, as practitioners can zero in on what works best. This is why many countries’ health systems have already moved to the new coding standard.

Greg Moore is vice president of health IT solutions, TechTeam Government Solutions. For more information on TechTeam Government Solutions:

Despite the benefi ts of making the shift to ICD- 10, many U.S. health- related organizations have yet to begin even planning for the change. Like the massive undertaking in

the computer industry to address the threat of Y2K failings, the healthcare industry has a choice between time and money – if you don’t have the time, you’ve got to spend the money.

6 December 2010 It doesn’t have to be this way

This is an issue that the CEOs need to own: They are the only ones who can survey the organizational landscape, identify which systems need modifi cation, provide leadership where collaboration with outside entities is required, communicate with all the af- fected parties regarding the changes ahead and how different communities of interest will be affected, identify what resources can be applied, and commit the funds to make it happen. There are fi ve critical areas to address:

The current landscape Not surprisingly, the use of ICD codes extends far beyond medical records. The fi rst step to successful implementation is understanding all the ways that the current system, ICD-9, touches records systems. The chief technology offi cer has to assess existing systems to identify which ones will be affected by the change. At the same time, the chief fi nancial offi cer should look at how the change will affect billing, insurance carriers, physician practices and patients.

Modifying the systems

One painful aspect of the U.S. healthcare deliv- ery system is a lack of standardized systems; every hospital, clinic, private practice, insurance company and pharmacy has something uniquely tailored to its situation. The designated project lead must reach out to all the organization’s partners, clients and vendors to identify what changes are needed and who will be responsible for making them. It is not as easy as simply asking that the ICD coding fi eld be made bigger to accommodate the longer ICD-10 numbers. Any pro- grammer will tell you that introducing such a change will have unforeseen ripple effects throughout the software. There will need to be contract modifi cations with specifi c plans and manpower commitments from software providers. The sooner the CEO gets these in place – allowing more time for the work, including


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