Great efforts require strong collaboration. No significant change has ever been accomplished alone. From starting a small business to developing a nationwide information infrastructure, partnerships are stepping stones to success. And the implementation of ICD-10 is no exception.
As providers await news of the final conversion deadline, many are already underway with their ICD-10 preparations. Selecting key partners for the transition has become best practice and part of nearly everyone’s plan. But what types of partners are necessary? And where can they be found?
In our experience, there are five types of partners you will need for the transition to ICD-10. These include:
- Project Management
- Training / Education
- Staff Augmentation
- Revenue / Reimbursement Analytics
Most providers have already identified a project management partner. This partner will help assess your current readiness, conduct a gap analysis, create timelines and budgets, etc. While many organizations have selected a “big six” firm to manage their ICD-10 project, smaller companies are also ready and willing to help. Asking regional peers for their recommendations is a good place to start.
Technology partners will work with your existing IT leadership and software vendors to identify all systems impacted by ICD-10, create a vendor spreadsheet or database, and ensure all technology is ready for ICD-10. Include in your spreadsheet: vendor and product name, primary area of usage, impacted system interfaces, internal business owner, primary technical lead and all contacts.
Beyond the basics, ask your vendors about their readiness and keep track of their replies. Some questions to ask include:
- Where are they and what code level will be required?
- How has the delay affected their strategy?
- What collateral/support/tools are or will be available?
- Will the application be updated….or sunset?
- Can we see a demo?
- What is the timeline for development, testing and go-live?
- Can they provide a complete checklist / milestone survey?
Securing a training and education partner should be your next task. There are many options available designed to suit every budget and learning style. AHIMA provides much practical guidance on what types of training will be needed and when. Different users throughout the health system will require varying depth of ICD-10 knowledge. Training and education should be planned with each user’s needs in mind—no more, no less. And based on the Canadian experience, coder and physician training in particular will be an ongoing concern.
Experience tells us that productivity drops significantly with ICD-10 and may never return to ICD-9 levels. This is true for coders as well as clinical documentation improvement and billing professionals. Assuming a productivity drop during the training period and an ongoing deficit, staff augmentation is essential.
Keep in mind that all staffing and outsourcing agencies will be recruiting from the same pool of credentialed coders, so be sure to contract with a reputable, high-quality firm early. For one of our clients, Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH), a not-for-profit healthcare system serving Northern and Central Arizona, the partnership for both education and staffing was approached holistically across the organization, versus exclusively from a coder or health information management (HIM) perspective.
Finally, intense revenue/reimbursement analytics should be performed for two reasons. First, providers should understand which DRGs will be revenue winners and losers under ICD-10 based on current clinical documentation. With this knowledge, specific documentation weaknesses can be addressed. Second, reimbursement must be monitored and managed post-conversion to continually identify areas for improvement and make strategic, service-line decisions.
We’ve had nearly three decades of experience with ICD-9, tracking the revenue impact and educating our staffs. None of our progress has been made alone. We’ve used technology, auditors, consultants and staff. ICD-10 is much the same. Partnerships and collaboration are more important than ever…and should be top of mind for us all.