March 26, 2013

“They Burned the Boats!”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a transcription of a recent segment by Denny Flint on Talk-Ten-Tuesday.

Do you like history? I love history. History teaches us valuable lessons.

With thanks to Steve Arter, I want to talk about two historical events and how they relate to ICD-10. At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England from France by way of the English Channel. William was intent on taking the British crown from King Harold II, who had been anointed king upon the death of Edward. When he landed, William had an unruly invasion force with him that had different priorities. William’s priority was clear. He wanted to conquer England in order to unify his forces with a common motivation, and to do so he committed an unprecedented act. He burned his landing boats and told his troops there were only two possible outcomes, victory or defeat.

Think of Britain as ICD-10 and William the Conqueror as CMS (the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). The part of the unruly invasion force will be played by our doctors.

Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s letter to the AMA (American Medical Association) three weeks ago should make it pretty clear to everyone paying attention that CMS has burned its boats. I quote in part: “The AMA’s request to halt ICD-10 implementation efforts … would fundamentally alter a policy the healthcare industry has been working since 2009 to implement. ICD-10 is not only foundational for healthcare reform, but is a cornerstone of several integrated programs that build toward a modernized healthcare system.” Tavenner went on to write that “staying the course with ICD-9 is not sustainable in an e-health environment,” and that “halting this progress midstream would be costly, burdensome, and would eliminate the impending benefits of these investments.”

ICD-9 is two years gone and unrecoverable, and ICD-11’s clinical modification “strap-on” is a minimum of six years away. CMS has burned the boats.

For every provider entity or supplemental service organization involved in healthcare, it is time to realize that only two options remain: victory or defeat. For an entire system, it all depends on physician documentation to gets claims paid. A ripple effect will cripple all who are dependent on a physician’s diagnosis code for payment. Hospitals, imaging centers, labs, PT, OT, DME – the list goes on. For physicians, victory means embracing the fact that there’s no way back. Only forward.

You know who smells victory? The payers. The information out of the WEDI meetings is that payers are on track and further ahead in preparation for ICD-10 than anticipated. We heard the same thing from our good friend Annie Boynton on this program last month. Ask yourself, how does “the insurance companies are ready for ICD-10 and the providers are not” turn out for the providers?

The other boat-burning lesson we can learn happened on Pitcairn Island in 1789. After mutinying and setting Capt. Bligh adrift, First Mate Fletcher Christian (who was never known as Fletcher the Conqueror, by the way) burned the HMS Bounty so no one could return. In this case, he ensured defeat because he was unwilling to face the music. He ended up drunk and murdered by a jealous Tahitian husband, according to legend.

Our only resource we have to achieve victory is our physicians. We have to help them understand that the boats have been burned, there’s no going back, and all of us need to march forward together with a unified purpose and commitment. The doctors need to hear from everyone, everywhere. Let’s get this done! The boats have been burned! On to victory!

About the Author

Denny is the president 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.

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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.