New ICD-10 deadline keeps momentum alive, C-suite engaged

By Tom Sullivan
02:47 PM
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HHS finalized October 1, 2014 as the deadline for ICD-10 compliance on Friday. In so doing, the agency sparked widespread relief across the industry.

“We had a number of clients hesitate after the initial announcement of a delay by CMS," said Michael Arrigo, managing partner of consultancy No World Borders healthcare practice. "Now that the final rule has been published it removes uncertainty from the market place about ICD-10."

[Related: Value-added byproducts of a well-executed ICD-10 project.]

Arrigo is not alone in finding that keeping the C-suite engaged in such a massive and expensive project – one that nonetheless had an unsolidified deadline – has been quite challenging. In early August, in fact, Government Health IT's sister publication, Healthcare Finance News, reported the same, in Smart CFOs keep focus on ICD-10.

“We’re seeing a lot of [CFOs] put their head in the sand,” Mike Koehler, a director in the risk practice of solutions firm Crowe Horwath told Healthcare Finance News Editor Rene Letourneau. “We’re seeing tremendous failure on an organizational level.”

Leading up to Friday’s announcement, the sense was prevalent that pushing the compliance date further into the future than 2014 would be damaging, if not disastrous, to the industry, particularly to those payers and providers that have already moved beyond the assessment phase of this transition.

"A delay beyond one year would probably cause most people to mothball the entire project,” said Steve Sisko, a healthcare and business technology professional specializing in ICD-10, “while the Oct 1, 2014 deadline keeps momentum going and maintains the value of work already done."

Initial reactions on Twitter – where there is a strong ICD-10 presence – ranged from “insignificant” to “great news, time to ramp back up on implementation,” to one contrarian calling the delay a “short-sighted move that punishes modern healthcare organizations and postpones US eHealth progress.”

Over on ICD10Watch, another sister site, the current and still open reader poll asks “Does the one-year extension of ICD-10 implementation give you enough time to comply?”

Of the 82 respondents, 17 percent said, “Yes, but we need the extension,” while 5 percent opted for “No, we need two years,” and 5 percent voted “No, we need to wait for ICD-11.”

[Related: Top 20 must-follow ICD-10 Tweeters.]

The overwhelmingly most popular answer: 73 percent indicated “Yes, but we would have been ready in 2013.”

Which is not to say they could have done so without the challenges Arrigo, Koehler, and Sisko described.

“We have been counseling a number of clients on interim ways to accelerate their cash flow, reduce the cost of healthcare, and reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance as ways to create headroom in their budgets for ICD-10," said Arrigo. "When you speak in those terms, you speak in a language that a CFO can understand. The regulatory compliance, HIM, coding, and revenue cycle management people all know that ICD-10 is coming and they have been worried about getting started.

"Now, we have ways to make a business case for the CFO," he said.