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5/4/2011
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AMA, MGMA Launch Practice Management Software Directory

Groups seek to ease physician transition to 5010 transactions, ICD-10 coding

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) are building an online directory to help physicians evaluate and select practice management software.

The directory, which went live last week with details on about a dozen products, is intended to complement the "Selecting a Practice Management System" toolkit the two organizations debuted last fall.

Why create the directory now? With so much attention focused on installing and achieving Meaningful Use of electronic health records (EHRs) in hopes of securing Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments, it's sometimes easy to forget that healthcare organizations have two other significant technology updates to focus on. The federally mandated deadline to send electronic transactions in ANSI X12 version 5010 format is coming up on Jan. 1, 2012, and most providers must start coding according to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10), no later than Oct. 1, 2013.

Those impending conversions have had provider groups sweating for years, but with the 5010 switch now just months away--and with the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act calling for greater uniformity of standardized Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) transactions in hopes of lowering administrative costs--physician practices seem to be scrambling to keep up.

"All of these new opportunities can only be realized if the practice management system is capable of doing these things," said Robert Tennant, Washington-based senior policy advisor for the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), an organization representing group practices. "We're assuming that the marketplace is going to be such that practices will be shopping for new practice management systems."

The AMA also is directing members to an archived webinar on selecting a practice management system.

The directory, which Tennant said is growing, lists features for each offering such as: price range, not counting implementation costs; the number of installed customers; the target market, by practice size or specialty; how long the product has been on the market; and whether the vendor has a related EHR.

"We want to put a little pressure on the vendors to disclose what they offer," Tennant explained. The groups are leaving it up to their members to use the toolkit and consult the list when choosing a new system. The toolkit, available to AMA and MGMA members only, contains strategies for evaluating vendors as well as a sample request for proposal. "It gives providers a little more ammunition with the vendors," Tennant added.

"It’s a difficult decision. It’s an expensive one for a practice," Tennant explained. "Picking the wrong one can be very, very costly for a practice."

When he spoke with InformationWeek, Tennant had just finished a presentation on 5010 readiness to the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange, an organization focused on streamlining healthcare information management. "The industry is way behind," Tennant reported. "What happens if your vendor doesn't allow you to send compliant claims?" he asked.

According to Tennant, some vendors still don't have systems that can send direct electronic transactions according to HIPAA specification--whether the legacy version 4010a1 or the newer 5010 code set--and thus funnel administrative communications through clearinghouses that they may or may not also own. Going through a clearinghouse might add costs and delay processing, Tennant noted.

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