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Updated on: March 14, 2016

Five Simple Strategies for Making Short Work of a Tall Problem

Original story posted on: March 2, 2015

With the clock ticking on ICD-10 implementation, many practices are starting to worry they may not be ready in time for the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline. While there is much to accomplish in a short timeframe, it can be done. Developing a solid strategy can help simplify the process and help you mitigate costs.


1. Engage with your vendors: If your vendors haven’t been in touch with you, you may have problems. Reach out to find out where they are in the implementation process and how it will affect you. Questions should include:

a. What offerings do they have for ICD-10?
b.  How will updates be implemented?
c.  How much will it cost?
d.  When can you do testing?
e.  What crosswalk solutions do they have?

2.  Query the health plans you contract with. Questions should include:

a.  Are any terms of my contract being changed?
b.  What medical policies are changing?
c.  What is the policy on handling of unspecified codes?
d.  When can we test with you?

3.  Educate your staff members. Everyone will need some level of training, and there are many free resources for training out there. Look for low-cost training through these avenues

a.  Vendor user groups
b.  Medical and specialty societies
c.  Podcasts (such as Talk Ten Tuesdays on icd10monitor.com)
d.  AAPC local chapters (there are more than 530 across the U.S.)
e.  Health plans you contract wit

4.  Beef up your documentation. Chances are, your medical records are not being documented with the highest level of specificity possible for patient encounters under current regulations. Starting now will not only prepare you for ICD-10, but it will also improve overall compliance. Start with these simple steps:

a.  Run a practice management report of your most frequently utilized codes
b.  Pull medical records that correspond with those diagnoses
c.  Have coders review the records to see if a valid code can be assigned
d.  Hold educational sessions to discuss improvements needed

5.  Review your processes often. Make sure that the most important issues are being addressed, such as:

a.  Is my vendor going to be ready on time?
b.  Is my testing still producing positive results?
c.  Are coder productivity levels increasing?
d.  Is documentation compliant?
e.  Are my health plans ready so that I can get paid?

It’s not too late to still get ready and make improvements. Waiting until closer to the implementation date will not only disrupt your strategy, but it will also have you diving deeper into your financial reserves to make sure you can be ready on time. Any time we have a new initiative there will be issues. But the only one who can prepare and protect your practice is you. Leaving it up to fate or hoping for another extension will wreak havoc on the ability of your practice to remain financially stable.


Disclaimer: Every reasonable effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time it was published. However, due to the nature of industry changes over time we cannot guarantee its validity after the year it was published.

Rhonda Buckholtz is the vice president of practice optimization for Eye Care Leaders. She has more than 25 years of experience in healthcare, working in the management, reimbursement, billing, and coding sectors, in addition to being an instructor. She is a past co-chair for the WEDI ICD-10 Implementation Workgroup, Advanced Payment Models Workgroup and has provided testimony ongoing for ICD-10 and standardization of data for NCVHS. Rhonda spends her time on practice optimization for Eye Care Leaders by providing transformational services and revenue integrity for Ophthalmology practices. She was instrumental in developing the Certified Ophthalmology Professional Coder (COPC) exam and curriculum for the AAPC. Rhonda is a member of the ICD10monitor editorial board and makes frequent appearances on Talk Ten Tuesdays.

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