Tips to Reduce Productivity Loss while Implementing ICD-10

The American Medical Association recently released some frightening statistics about the financial impact of ICD-10 implementation, which predicts the transition to the new coding system will be significantly more costly for medical practices than initially estimated. This article offers healthcare providers some useful tips on how to reduce productivity loss while preparing for the big change.

The American Medical Association updated a report from 2008 about the costs of implementing ICD-10. The recently released study  brings up some frightening costs health care practices will have to face while making the transition to ICD-10, which now range between $56,000 and $226,000 for small practices, and between $213,000 and $824,000 for medium-sized practices. The cost for a large practice will be much higher: anywhere between two to eight million dollars. According to AMA, these costs include software upgrades, training, practice assessments, testing, payment disruptions and productivity loss for physicians.

The deadline for the implementation of ICD-10 is October 1, 2014, so health care facilities have approximately eight more months to successfully prepare for the transition. Medical coders and physicians should have already begun training to reduce potential productivity losses. If not, they should start as soon as possible. Procrastination may lead to panic right before or during the ICD-10 transition.  By starting to train your personnel as soon as possible, you can avoid even more stress later on.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid productivity losses altogether, as coders and physicians will need an accommodation period to learn the new codes and improve their workflow. According to the same study released by the AMA, productivity loss will cost small practices between $8,000 and $20,00; medium practices between $72,000 and $166,000; and large practices between $730,000 to $1.5 million. However, there are a few things you can do in order to minimize the costs you’ll have to suffer due to a drop in productivity.

Thorough Training

Physicians will have to learn to document their care more accurately in order to include the right level of detail and specificity in every single patient’s notes. For more on clinical documentation, we recommend this webinar offered by health IT provider M*Modal. On the other hand, coders will need plenty of practice with the new code set, as it is more complex than ICD-9, which consists of only three to five digits and one number. With the increased specificity of ICD-10, codes can be up to seven digits. The first digit in an ICD-10 code is always a letter, the second one is always a number, and the remaining digits can be any combination of numbers and letters. Everyone in the medical practice will need some form of training to get ready for this transition. Physicians will need approximately 16 to 20 hours of training, while coders will need 40 to 60 hours.

To increase productivity after the transition, you should consider including dual coding in your strategy. If you instruct medical coders to assign both ICD-10 and ICD-9 codes to medical records, you may experience a drop in productivity now, but coders will be more prepared for the ICD-10 deadline. Furthermore, you can try focusing specific coders on specialties and hiring help to keep medical claim processing moving. Nonetheless, you should hurry, as ICD-10-trained medical coders are in high demand.

Turn to Computer-Assisted Coding

Automation can boost efficiency and productivity, so turning to computer-assisted coding can be a wise idea. The software attempts to draw information from clinical documentation and assign an ICD-9 or ICD-10 code to that data. Consequently, you can reduce the amount of time a coder needs to identify the proper code by automatically pointing them in the right direction. According to a case study published by the American Health Information Managemen..., computer-assisted coding increases productivity, by 15-percent.

Computer-assisted coding will help facilitate a smoother transition to ICD-10, but keep in mind that the software can’t replace medical coders. Someone still needs to go over the data and make sure it’s accurate. You shouldn’t skip properly training your coders. After all, a machine will never be able to replace human intelligence.

Take Advantage of Resources

In addition to offering proper training and investing in computer-assisted coding, you should also keep yourself educated on the upcoming transition. It may seem like an overwhelming process, but there are many resources you can turn to in order to find some assistance. For instance, WEDI offers ICD-10 compliance training through webinar series to help health IT stakeholders meet the October ICD-10 compliance deadline and to provide answers to common questions. CMS also offers free resources designed to help providers, payers, vendors, and non-covered entities with the transition to ICD-10.

Another good idea would be to keep an eye out for any seminars or conferences on the subject. Attending these types of events is a great way to both learn more about ICD-10 and get in touch with other healthcare providers facing the same challenges as you.

Even by heeding this advice, some loss in productivity should be expected. However, if the healthcare practice has properly anticipated, learned, and prepared for the changes and potential setbacks of ICD-10 implementation, productivity should return to normal within about four to six months after the transition

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