Mostashari: SNOMED critical to ICD-10

Farzad Mostashari, MDFarzad Mostashari, MD

There's money to be had in helping doctors to prepare for ICD-10, he says

SNOMED was so important to healthcare's switch from ICD-9  to ICD-10 medical coding, ONC Chief Farzad Mostashari, MD says, that he was willing to support the one-year delay to achieve the necessary crosswalks. This system of nomenclature can lay the groundwork and foundation for much better, more granular clinical documentation, he said.

Mostashari spoke with Healthcare IT News Senior Editor Diana Manos June 17 at the HIMSS Media ICD-10 Forum in National Harbor, Md.  With his typical candor and energy, Mostashari commented on several healthcare IT issues and about ICD-10 – the focus of the forum and the topic of the keynote talk he had delivered earlier in the day. Yes, he was wearing his signature bow tie.

Q. How did you get so passionate about healthcare IT?

A. I went to the school of public health first, thinking I was going to help populations and do international work, and then my Dad got sick. He was in the hospital and I thought – my gosh, this laying on of hands, that is something really powerful – and, so I went to med school. There’s an indispensible role of healthcare in easing suffering. Information and information tools help us apply the best care to an individual based on everything we’ve learned and to have that individual encounter contribute to the greater knowledge. That tension [between] the many and the one is very personal to me.

Q. You mentioned SNOMED this morning in your keynote. Can you explain a little more about the importance of the connection between SNOMED and ICD-10?

A. SNOMED was one of the factors for me in supporting the one-year delay in ICD-10. It can lay the groundwork and foundation for much better, more granular clinical documentation and data collection that could then be used if providers and vendors take advantage of it. It could be used to ease the path to ICD-10, so we’re not dealing in ICD-10 with the same darn ICD-9 codes through a silhouette, because if we do that, we’ve added no value.

Q. How is ONC helping providers to use SNOMED in the transition to ICD-10?

A. The first thing we realized we had to do, two years ago, was there has to be a crosswalk. So, out of our teeny tiny ONC budget we helped support the National Library of Medicine in developing that crosswalk. It’s an openly available resource to everybody and we’d like to see more  people use it, fill in the gaps and help make it better over time. But this is one, where the market should work, because there’s money to be made making ICD-10 transition easier for docs. We’re laying out the tools, and the market needs to pick them up.

Q. Can you elaborate on how vendors could help with the ICD-10 transition?

A. We have a fundamental belief at ONC and the administration that the power of American innovation and entrepreneurship is undefeatable and we’ve got to tap into that to solve our toughest problems, including healthcare costs and quality. This is an opportunity for companies to do good, by doing well. 

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