September 11, 2012

Take a Deep Breath, Get Organized: You Can Do This

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For the last several weeks you’ve heard me railing against politicians, CMS and even the AMA for their parts in the interminable delays associated with ICD-10. Well, the time for rhetoric on both sides is over, me included. Rather than take the Andy Rooney approach and complaining about everything, it’s time to get serious. It’s time to be professional. It’s time to stop the brow-beating and get to work. But in order to get to work, I want you to stop working for a while. That’s right. I want you to extend the long weekend and just take a deep breath. For those of you who already were able to enjoy the Labor aDy weekend, I hope it was a good one. I hope you got to spend time with friends and loved ones, relax and just reflect on how nice it was to sit back and organize your thoughts during some downtime.

Now that we have a decision on the ICD-10 implementation date, however, again, I want you to extend that downtime. I know, I know: during the last several months I’ve been preaching to get ready, to stop procrastinating, to take action. But with certainty on a new date, you now can afford to take a few months to get organized. So take a deep breath and get started on determining the best course of action for your unique situation.

After all, you now have time to come up with a good plan. If you just start going willy-nilly, things certainly will fall through the cracks. So for the next few months, don’t just start doing stuff. Instead, put together an unhurried, organized ICD-10 transition process.

Most of you have planned a wedding or a family reunion, or remodeled your house or yard. ICD-10 is just a project, nothing more, nothing less. Sure, there are a lot of moving parts. But while you still have the time, think it through. You know, for example that you need a group of folks you can trust to get parts of your project done, so start thinking about who will be part of that team. You know you need to accomplish certain action items to finish the project. You know that once you figure out what you need to do, you need to have a budget to make sure you’re able to pay for all the pieces. It’s a project. You didn’t just show up at that wedding or family reunion, hoping everything was done. Hopefully you took the time to make sure you had a good plan. More importantly, hopefully you took the time to make sure you had the time to get the project accomplished in the first place.

So that’s what you need to do right now. Take another deep breath. Get organized. Educate your providers and staff about what they need to know right now about ICD-10. I’m not talking about coding education, by the way. You’ll lose your docs if you start talking about ICD-10 codes now. Instead, for your unique situation, break out the codes that will affect you the most and look at the new documentation elements your providers need to know. That’s the first step. Then create some awareness by getting everyone comfortable with the basic differences between ICD-9 and ICD-10. Take the time to create some buy-in; talk to your people about ICD-10 and how a change in diagnosis coding will affect their unique jobs. Also ask yourself: do you have the in-house resources to do what you need to do, or do you need some help? There are tons of solutions out there, so take some time to check them out. Vendor bozos like me will be trying to get ahold of you, asking for appointments and meetings, but don’t make snap commitments. Start compiling a file on those vendors and their proposed solutions. Ask for colleague references. Remember, there’s a big difference between solutions and consultants that work for hospitals and those that work for physician organizations. So make sure you’re a good fit for each other.

To really discover what ICD-10 means to your practice, an early way to jump-start the conversation is to convert your top 20 codes in order to see what you’re dealing with. You can do it using a book, or there exist some very affordable conversion tools you can use as well. And I’m talking less than the cost of a code book. Do a mini-chart audit. You don’t need to be a coder; it’s not hard. Just pull some charts containing those top 20 diagnoses, and after you’ve converted the codes, check out your current documentation. Are your providers documenting what they must, to capture what you need to, in order to be able to code under ICD-10? Remember too that docs are competitive. Give them a report card. It’s an excellent way to spark the ICD-10 conversation.

So again, take some time. Extend the reflection afforded by this past holiday to take yet another deep breath, relax, and enjoy the ability to develop a coherent, timeline-centric approach for this transition. It’s an important project, but you have time. Imagine what that wedding or family reunion would have been like had you not taken the time to plan it in a sane, measured way. ICD-10 is just another project. No more, no less. So relax.

You can do this!

About the Author

Denny is president of Complete Practice Resources, a healthcare education, consulting and software company headquartered in Slidell, La. He formerly served as the CEO of a large, multi-specialty physician group, full-service MSO. Denny has authored or co-authored numerous common-sense practice management books and implementation manuals. He is an award-winning, nationally known consultant, speaker and educator bringing his expertise to bear on making the complex simple. He currently serves on the editorial board of ICD10monitor.

Educated at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Denny had a distinguished career as an Air Force pilot and has a long history of commitment to excellence and dedication to his clients’ success.

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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.
Denny Flint

Denny is the chief executive officer of Complete Practice Resources, a healthcare education, consulting, and software company headquartered in Slidell, Louisiana. He formerly served as the CEO of a large, multi-specialty physician group, full service MSO. Denny has authored or co-authored numerous “common sense” practice management books and implementation manuals. He is an award winning, nationally known consultant, speaker, and educator bringing his expertise to making the complex “simple.” He currently serves on the editorial board of ICD10 Monitor. Educated at the United States Air Force Academy, Denny had a distinguished career as an Air Force pilot and has a long history of commitment to excellence and dedication to his clients’ success.