HIMSS, AHIMA re-assert need for ICD-10 vigilance

"This is a bit ironic today," Sue Bowman said, pointing to a CMS-borrowed slide stating that the compliance deadline for ICD-10 is October 1, 2013. "The government threw a big curveball toward many presentations."

Speaking at the HIMSS12 ICD-10 Symposium on Monday morning, AHIMA's director of coding policy and compliance Bowman urged attendees that, even though we do not know when the compliance date will be, it's best to "stay on course, stay vigilant," in your ICD-10 planning and implementation.

HIMSS' Juliet Santos, senior director of business-centered systems, explained during her introduction of Bowman that HIMSS is recommending the same. "I know you're all anxious," Santos said. "But the position HIMSS is taking is we are staying on course and will continue to support" members.

[See also: ICD-10 deadline do-over?.]

The potential delay that HHS Secretary Sebelius announced last week gives attendees more time to understand the value of ICD-10, Bowman said, adding that the benefits include quality measurements, better data for analysis, improved outcomes, tracking and responding to health threats, comparative analysis with other countries that use ICD-10 and greater detail to recognize previously unknown connections or spot epidemics early.

ICD-10 "should not be done in isolation," Bowman said, rather it's part of a broader set of health IT initiatives including meaningful use, value-based pricing, payment reform, quality reporting.

"Think of ICD-10 as being the foundation," Bowman added. "You need that in order to get the better parts of the house." ICD-10, indeed, is the foundation that enables healthcare entities to reap the benefits of those other long-term HIT initiatives.

Responding to an attendee asking why the AMA is so opposed to ICD-10, Bowman said "not all physicians are against ICD-10. Some are overwhelmed by more and more government regulations. It's not necessarily about ICD-10 – that's the last straw."

Joining AHIMA and HIMSS chants for keeping the ICD-10 compliance deadline for October 1, 2013, computer-assisted coding vendor Precyse circulated an open letter here at HIMSS12 on Monday recommending that healthcare organizations continue their focus, while tech vendors Availity, NextGen, and Siemens, in a panel discussion, essentially agreed that pushing the deadline back made little difference to their organizations, at least thus far.

"We need to keep moving forward," agreed Thomas Pacek, CIO of South Jersey Healthcare. "We need to be as ready as possible." Pacek added that talk of a delay makes it harder for him to convince HR of the need to hire more coders. "This has created more headaches for me."