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U.S. a leader in adopting healthcare IT? Not when it comes to ICD-10

By Phil Colpas, Managing Editor

dmittedly, the United States is not often painted in a favorable light where healthcare is concerned: In general, healthcare lags behind its business counterparts in many areas of technology; the U.S. is ranked 37th globally in healthcare, according to the New England Journal of Medicine; and though we continue to struggle with ICD-10 conversion, many other countries made the switch decades ago. Full compliance to ICD-10 remains federally mandated in the U.S. for Oct. 1, 2013, although there remains much debate over deadlines and logistics. Meanwhile, the fi rst version of ICD-11 is slated to debut in 2015. Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and out- sourcing company, recently released fi ndings of a year-long study on the impact of technology across eight country health systems: Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the U.S. Among the fi ndings: More patients in the U.S. can access health records electronically than in most of the other countries; more U.S. doctors send prescriptions electronically to pharma- cies than anywhere else in the world; and U.S. doctors increasingly share patient data outside their organization to improve disease management. Good news, indeed. But can we really call ourselves healthcare IT adoption leaders when we’re still struggling with implementing ICD-10, a system that many other countries have been using for at least 10 years? We’ve all heard the ICD-10 backlash: Deadlines are too tight; conversion will disrupt workfl ow and revenue; training coders is too costly and labor intensive. The American Medical Association recently sent a letter to Congress requesting that ICD-10 implementation be stopped and a more-appropriate replacement for ICD-9 be utilized.


As we were preparing to go to press, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that HHS intends to delay ICD-10. By how much wasn’t clear, although an announcement from Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is expected soon. And lately, there have even been rumblings to leapfrog ICD-10 altogether and proceed directly to its successor. Not a good idea? Consider this: If CMS does ask for a two-year delay to 2015, it may indeed make more sense to simply skip ICD-10 and move directly to ICD-11, which is slated for a 2015 release. Especially when you consider that if ICD-10 implementation proceeds, by the time it’s actually in place we’ll need to start considering the logistics of conversion to ICD-11. And if the goal of this implementation is improved effi ciency, reduced cost and better healthcare, it doesn’t make sense to follow one costly, time-consuming sea change with another. If we’ve learned anything so far through this process and from the countries that preceded us, it’s that we don’t want to do it again. And certainly not right away. Enjoy the issue.


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