How to help physicians survive the ICD-10 transition

By Carl Natale
10:37 AM

If healthcare providers do not get buy in from their physicians, the ICD-10 transition may be hazardous to the health of the organization.

Physicians need to accept the changes needed to make ICD-10 implementation work. If they don't document patient encounters properly, medical coding productivity and accuracy will suffer.

Then that leads to financial problems as medical claim rejections and denials increase.

Healthcare providers need to engage physicians in a way that ensures they learn what they need to know and apply the knowledge after Oct. 1. These steps will help.

Find value in ICD-10 coding

Just blaming the federal bureaucracy and health insurance industry is not going to motivate physicians enough. They need to see the value in improving clinical documentation and using ICD-10 codes.

Just telling physicians that ICD-10 codes will provide more data that can improve population health won't be enough. Organizations need to have a plan that uses clinical data and shares it with physicians. They need to know their work makes a difference and see the results.

Train physicians to be teachers

Physicians aren't going to want to hear from medical coders or documentation specialists. They will be more receptive to physicians who speak their language, work in the same specialty and won't tell them they're doing their jobs wrong.

Physicians need to hear from someone who respects their knowledge and time. Physician trainers will be able to help customize training for specialty.

Customize sessions to fit learning styles

The first impulse is to gather physicians in a room and fire up a projector. Maybe this works for some physicians. Maybe there are physicians who will learn better at their pace and don't need a classroom session.

Make videos and workbooks available that lets physicians learn at their pace on their schedules. But follow up to reinforce the sessions and answer questions.

Making training options available will help physicians accept change.

Minimize effort

No one has enough time. Physicians feel the time pressure even more. Break the training into small sessions that are easier to fit into busy schedules. Short sessions also will feel less daunting and boring.

Also minimize the amount of memorization required. The major knock on the ICD-10 code set is the number of codes. Mitigate that concern by requiring as little memorization as possible.

And if you're using physician trainers, sessions can focus on specialties. Physicians won't have to learn how to document diagnoses that they're unlikely to encounter.

Inoculate against disruptions

Physicians need to understand that efforts are being made to make the ICD-10 transition as easy as possible. If they can appreciate that accommodations are being made for their schedules and specialty, they will be more willing to learn.

And they are more likely to believe that their efforts will lead to fewer medical coder queries.

Which is the ultimate goal.

Queries will kill productivity for medical coders and physicians. It's time wasted for everyone if they can be avoided.

Train physicians to provide the detail that supports ICD-10 coding in a way that respects their time and expertise. Then they can respect and support the ICD-10 transition.