February 24, 2014

HIMSS Conference Heats Up with Testing on the Front Burner

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“Tick tock, goes the clock…” starts the old nursery rhyme, and in the case of ICD-10, the clock shows that there are just seven month left until the implementation date of October 1. Several guests on Talk-Ten-Tuesday’s February 24 live broadcast from the 2014 HIMSS conference hammered home the urgency of being ready, starting with Matthew Albright, director of the administrative simplification group in the Office of E-Health Standards and Services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

 

“If you haven’t started your transition yet, it’s important to get started now to make sure you’re ready on October 1,” said Albright. “And if your transition is already underway, now is a good time to take stock of where you are to make sure you’re still on track, and adjust your plan if needed.”

Albright reminded listeners that next week—from March 3 through 7—it will conduct front-end testing between Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) and their trading partners, and it will conduct end-to-end testing over the summer with a small sample of providers.

Although this is a very good thing, Robert Tennant,senior policy advisor for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), explained that “it will be limited.” MGMA plans to encourage CMS to expand its effort.

As Tennant sees it, testing is the biggest area of concern among HIMSS conference participants, and many conference vendors are offering a wide range of products and services to address it.

“As a consulting company, we’re seeing hospitals and practices that haven’t yet done what they should, so they’re looking for assistance. Hospital IT staff are stretched, and hospitals are reaching out to external companies to help,” he said.

Physician Education Needed

Although many hospitals may be reaching out, most physician practices are not, Tennant reported. According to a recently completed MGMA survey, just 9.7 percent of physician practices indicated that they were ready, but the rest have a long way to go to implement ICD-10. Tennant reported that 25 percent haven’t heard anything from their vendors and 60 percent have not heard from their major health plans.

In addition, “Practices are concerned about changes to clinical documentation and decreases in physician and coder productivity,” he said.

What’s needed in the hospital setting is “buy-in from clinical leadership,” said Tom Ormondroyd, vice president and general manager of Precyse Learning Solutions. “Without someone with clout, it will be a tough road.”

The good news is that CMS and other organizations are offering free tools and resources to help physicians and others with transition planning and testing systems, and everything in between. Albright and other guests on the broadcast emphasized that a number of resources are available—online and at the HIMSS conference. (See Resources below.)

Plan Ahead for Rough Waters

John Elie, the director of Healthcare Services for Inergex, Inc., and co-chair of the HIMSS ICD-10 National Task Force workgroup on contingency planning, also joined the Talk-Ten-Tuesday broadcast to encourage listeners to plan ahead and actively collaborate with their trading partners to get the job done.

“Despite best efforts, be realistic, and anticipate the kind of issues you are likely to run into and plan how you will deal with them,” he says. “Let your people know that it’s a large program and transition and issues will come up. Think through those issues. Identify who will handle what.”

Mary Hyland from The SSI Group, Inc. agrees, saying “Don’t expect ICD-10 to go smoothly. You must make sure your system and software work appropriately before you submit it for testing. Identify problems now, which is why we want to engage in testing now. If you know your systems won’t be ready, look for alternatives.”

Ormondroyd attended the pre-conference on Sunday and shared a very encouraging observation: “Over the last few years people can agree that there were lots of presentations with theories. But the presentations now have moved from theoretical to practical,” he said. “We’re finally seeing practical examples about the areas of most concern.”

 

Resources:

Janis Oppelt

Janis keeps the wheel of words rolling for Panacea®'s publishing division. Her roles include researching, writing, and editing newsletters, special reports, and articles for RACMonitor.com and ICD10Monitor.com; coordinating the compliance question of the week; and contributing to the annual book-update process. She has 20 years of experience in topics related to Medicare regulations and compliance.