Herding Nerds: 5 project management tips for ICD-10 implementation

By Carl Natale
11:06 AM

To successfully implement ICD-10 coding in your organization, you will need some strong project management skills.

[See also: ICD-10 Transition: It's time to hone your project management skills]

To get a sense of what skills are needed, I talked to Steve Sisko, a healthcare information systems consultant for payers.

His job is to manage ICD-10 projects. "I love to use the term 'Herding Nerds,'" says Sisko. "Because it's not easy to get a bunch of people who are generally intelligent to go in the same direction." So how does he get all the "nerds" going in the same direction?

Get the right people on the committee

For starters, he gets more than the IT people involved. "You have to have the folks that are closest to the work involved to make sure your technical staff are making the best decisions," says Sisko. He says the people who run the business need to work on it too. They know what they need.

When Sisko talks about "business people," he's talking about the people who run payer organizations. This advice holds up on the provider side because you want the medical staff involved too. They're the ones who will be working with any solutions the ICD-10 project team creates.

Support those people

And when he does get the business people - the ones doing the work - on the ICD-10 project team, they don't always have top level support. "You don't get the executive support of the business people. You always get the support of the IT people," says Sisko. "I see a lot of places that don't give the business people enough time to do the job."

Which seems to be a common problem. Organizations don't prepare to have staff members go offline to plan for ICD-10 implementation.

Get started with vendors

You may need to contract healthcare vendors and consultants to manage your ICD-10 implementation. But get them on board now.

"The vendors are going to be really thin," says Sisko. "There's a tremendous shortage of people here. Who really know this stuff."

They are going to be really challenged to deliver on everything, and Sisko says the squeaky wheels will get the grease. So start engaging them now to get what you need in time.

Allow more time for testing

Everyone is going to have to test their ICD-10 implementation thoroughly. "Providers have to reach out to payers, and payers have to reach out to providers," says Sisko about creating expectations about when testing can start.

It may seem like there is plenty of time. But as the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline approaches, more payers and providers are going to need time to test at the same time. "There may be 100 or 500 people all trying to get through the same door."

And Sisko doubts that any payer will be able to test more than one provider at a time.

Share the knowledge

This actually comes from Sisko's blog, ICD-10 Impact to Health Care Payers & Providers. He's running a series of project management tips on how to successfully implement ICD-10 in an organization. There is a lot worth reading. But here's something you don't hear enough.

"Create some process and reference materials to support the on-boarding process," writes Sisko. Because your ICD-10 implementation team will learn a lot that will be valuable to everyone. So create manuals and guides that can help everyone.

And that will be useful if you have any turnover in your team. Those materials will help new members get up to speed.

Carl Natale blogs regularly at ICD10Watch.com.