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Updated on: March 16, 2016

What is a War Room?

By Laurie M. Johnson, MS, RHIA, CPC-H, FAHIMA
Original story posted on: January 20, 2014

When preparing for the final steps of ICD-10 implementation, it is suggested that every organization set up a “war room” or “command center” to be available during the transition phase.

This technique has been used for years by project management groups and implementation teams in many fields to increase communication and decrease downtime during a period of change.


According to Project-Management-Knowledge.com, “a war room is a meeting room for the purpose of discussing project management. The room is usually conveniently located, possibly in the center of the office, where members of the project management team are available to answer questions, discuss issues, and answer the phone. The room is a place where project managers discuss the development of a plan to specifically and successfully accomplish the project. In addition, they may discuss the resources needed such as manpower, the budget, the timeline, and possible challenges to be faced – and what can be done about the pitfalls that may occur. In the room, they also talk about the execution of the project, plus the step-by-step process of accomplishing their goal. Finally, the completion of the project is discussed in the war room. To aid in the process, valuable visual information (such as budget, timetable and project information) are available as charts in the war room.”

According to Protiviti (a leading risk and business consulting firm), a command center with well-trained staff dedicated to documenting, prioritizing, escalating, and helping resolve business issues can help ensure the success of information technology (IT) initiatives and reduce the risk of business operation interruptions.

The command center should be staffed with subject matter experts (SMEs) as well as an incident manager, or an administrative representative who records all identified issues and resolutions. The staff should also include an infrastructure representative (who provides expertise in all infrastructure components) and a resolution manager (who facilitates the resolution of all issues reported to the command center and coordinates requests for additional support resources).

A war room or command center is also something that is typically set up for a large-scale software implementation. The room should be staffed with people who have the authority to make important decisions. You will probably need representatives from all areas of the revenue cycle. For example:

  1. Scheduling/registration – How will pre-authorizations, ABNs, admitting Dx be handled?
  2. Case management – Can they enter ICD-10 codes for their working DRGs?
  3. Patient financial services – Can they generate ICD-10-based claims? Will the appropriate clearinghouse or payor accept them? What happens if a payor is not ready?
  4. Health information management – Can the coders code using ICD-10? What happens if they can’t find the documentation they need? Who do they go to with coding questions?
  5. Information technology – What happens if you find some software that is not ICD-10-compliant? What are the workarounds? What happens if interfaces don’t work?
  6. Nursing/quality – If there are any functions that are code-based, there may be some issues that arise. 
  7. Operations officer/leader – This person should be available to answer any miscellaneous questions.  
  8. Public relations/communications – There should be information published by this area regarding any process changes that have been put into effect or material about which staff should be aware. How are you planning to communicate with the public regarding any issues that are ICD-10-based? 

A war room or command center can remain in place for a long time or short time. If space is an issue, you could decide to meet at a specific place three times per day – morning, noon, and evening, or whatever schedule is appropriate for your organization. The hours of operation can be determined by the project management office (PMO). Healthcare is a 24/7 business, so it may make sense to have the area staffed around the clock, at least initially.

Setting up a war room will accelerate the process of solving real business problems or capturing strategic opportunities; it provides an area for each issue to be brought up and for all pertinent parties to listen; it organizes staff to allow them to collect data and resolve issues; and it provides an area to identify problems and resolutions.    The war room also eliminates time and energy expended in setting up times and locations for meetings during an implementation period.

As we get closer to the Oct. 1, 2014 ICD-10 implementation date, we need to develop specific implementation plans for the transition period and beyond.

The clock is ticking.

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.
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