According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the ICD-10 implementation date has been adjusted from 2013 to 2014.  The date of implementation is proposed for October 1, 2014.  With the slight delay, many see it as breathing time, but experts recommend utilizing the additional time to your advantage by continuing to move forward on preparation.

Below are some recommended ways to take advantage of the additional time set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to be more prepared when the time arrives.

1.    Conduct in-office analysis to identify which departments and processes will be the most affected by the implementation.   Preparation must be made to clinical documentation and super-bills to make the transition smoother.  The office super-bills must be converted to include the ICD-10 codes, which take both time and effort.  The additional time is helpful throughout this process.

2.    A sturdy and thorough plan should be put in place to train your office billing and clinical staff on the changes in ICD-10 coding.  Training workshops being offered now report that most skilled coders are taking up to four hours to code twenty cases – with the assistance of an instructor.  Establishing the right kind of training will help reduce the time spent coding and makes the process run more efficiently.

3.    Communicating with vendors and software experts that the organization will be working closely with through the implementation is helpful ahead of time.  Why wait until things are active before establishing foundational relationships with the key players involved in the change-over?  If you have questions ahead of time, be sure to write them down as they arise and have them addressed by your business partners, vendors and application experts.

4.    It is important to maintain compliance through the implementation process of the ICD-10.  This means that all documents need to be updated to reflect the new coding system.  If you have any questions on which documents must be updated, the Office of Inspector General has provided guidelines to help offices develop a system of internal controls to assist with the changes.  Nearly every policy and procedure found within a medical office has mention of coding and these documents must be updated prior to implementation.

5.    This is also the time that payer contracts should be reviewed, as some may be based on older codes that need to be updated.  A medical facility should never assume that the payer will update the code for you – this should be done in-house.  This time can also be best used to work with current payers to update the ICD-10 codes so problems are minimal in the near future.

6.    If a line of credit was not established during the 5010 transition, this is the time to do so, in an effort to eliminate unplanned revenue impact that may take you off-guard if ill-prepared.  The implementation of the ICD-10 does affect cash flow directly and lines of credit must be established for at least six months in order to be utilized.  This entire process takes time and is not something that can be crammed come deadline time.