November 6, 2012

Learning Experiences from Hurricane Sandy

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I’m writing this article in my cold, dark home, having been without power for the past 48 hours due to Hurricane Sandy’s wrath and (in my opinion) my power company’s lack of understanding of the magnitude of the storm’s requirements and a lack of planning.

It’s been a sleepless couple of nights due to my own misperception of Sandy’s breadth and depth and my own lack of planning. In effect, I neglected to test my backup sump pump (which had a faulty control unit) until it was too late (and, of course, backup sump pumps are completely sold out at any retailer or e-tailer). As a result, I’ve had to manually turn the backup pump on every hour (including during the night). No fun, but a learning experience. . .

What does this have to do with ICD-10? Maybe everything.

My Personal and Painful Lessons Learned

1)   Waiting to the last minute isn’t such a great idea

I procrastinated. I waited until the last minute to buy necessities (especially D batteries for flashlights, which were sold out pretty much everywhere; I wound up buying them from a non-chain “convenience store” which were selling the few they had left at a ridiculous premium). In an ICD-10 context, the necessities are going to be people, particularly coders (to assist with transition and ongoing operations) and consultants (to assist with transition, data conversion, and remediation). As the date nears, there will be a significant scarcity of these resources, and if you wait to the last minute, you will pay a significant premium.

I waited until it was too late to test my systems. I knew Sandy was coming for more than a week, but (foolishly) I didn’t test my systems until it was too late to do anything about it. Fortunately for me, a neighbor is an electrician and was able to help me figure out a manual workaround, but the amount of manual effort it has taken me to keep my home from flooding has been quite taxing. My clients know that ICD-10 is coming. They know that testing will be a significant challenge and the ramifications of not testing adequately will be severe. But I suspect that they will wait until the last minute and their “pound of the cure” will be a lot of manual effort to work around issues.

2)   Depending entirely upon vendors may not work out so well

My electric company is like your system vendors; I expect them to provide product and services that will work. In this case, I was blindly accepting (hoping?) that their products and services could keep my lights on and, in the unlikely event that there were issues, there would be communication and the response would be appropriate and rapid. Accordingly, I had no real contingency plan.

Clearly, trusting my vendor has not worked out well for me

We see our clients putting a lot of blind trust in their software and servicing vendors to provide them with ICD-10-compliant, usable products and services. Admittedly, the one-year delay certainly gives the vendors a better window in which to meet requirements, but we still think you would be wise to make sure that in the unlikely event that your vendors don’t deliver, you’re not stuck in an uncomfortable situation.

3)   Underestimating requirements can be a nightmare

I was warned; the media and government certainly did their job to let us all know that Sandy was going to be “epic” and “unprecedented.” But both are known for hyperbole and aggrandizement. I figured the reality would not live up to the hype. I was wrong.

ICD-10 is invasive and pervasive. Its requirements and requisite changes to business processes, analytics, and systems are vast. Yet I am quite certain that many of my clients are underestimating the impacts and potential ramifications to operations, cash flow, and, yes, quality of care.

HIPAA 5010 proved more difficult than anyone thought and it is to ICD-10 as a Nor’easter is to Hurricane Sandy.

I know for sure that when Hurricanes Tony, Valerie, William, and other ensuing hurricanes are approaching, I will not wait until the last minute, depend solely upon my primary vendor, and underestimate requirements.

As a patient/member/father, I sincerely hope the provider and payer communities will be more proactive and vigilant in the wake of the ICD-10 storm than I was in preparation for Sandy. . .

About the Author

John Wollman is the Executive Vice President of Healthcare for HighPoint Solutions, a Management and Information Technology consulting firm focused on Healthcare and Life Sciences.  John is responsible for HighPoint’s Healthcare industry group, catering to Payers and Providers.  John is a recognized expert in several healthcare business domains (Reform, HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, Platform Strategy) and technical domains (Master Data Management, Analytics).  Since graduating from Duke University, John has held executive level positions at consulting and technology companies over his 25 years in business.

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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.