In ICD-10 Transition, Training Trumps Tech Concerns

Clinical readiness is a top concern among providers regarding the ICD-10 transition, says recent KLAS report.
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Providers aren't worried about what IT is doing to help smooth the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 -- in fact, most providers, despite the size or type of their organization, are pleased with current ICD-10 offerings, like computer-assisted coding (CAC) technology. Instead, many are concerned with training and clinical readiness, according to a recently released KLAS report.

"ICD-10 Perception: Can Technology Relieve Readiness Issues?" explored whether the new ICD-10 deadline was impacting provider priorities, said author Lois Krotz in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. Krotz and her team were curious to see if providers were looking to bypass processes -- like readiness assessments, creating internal committees and investing in new technology -- to make the transition smoother. Instead, said Krotz, "all these processes are the same for all provider organizations, and a key finding was it's time to hunker down and go through them."

With that in mind, the report explored how providers viewed technology in regard to the transition. "One surprising finding for us is, IT isn't a concern for hospitals or clinics," said Krotz. "It's the people side of it." Physician documentation and training for coders and providers is top of mind. "A lot of EMR uses and end coders expressed confidence they've received a good amount of assurance from their vendor," Krotz said. "Their technology is ready."

[ For the latest developments on Meaningful Use, see Meaningful Use Stage 2 Rules Finalized. ]

Providers are looking to utilize IT to address productivity issues associated with the transition. The use of CAC technology, for example, is projected to become widespread; 75% of providers are considering using one form or another of CAC because they're anticipating the drop-off in productivity on the coder side, said Krotz. The reason for this IT implementation is to give coders enough time and help to prepare.

And this use of CAC technology and others like it is needed among coders, according to another recent KLAS report focusing on ICD-10 consulting firms. Eric Westerlind, author of "ICD-10 Consulting: Roadmap to a Successful Transition" told InformationWeek Healthcare that one CIO expressed concerns regarding their top coder -- when asked to perform the coding changes from ICD-9 to ICD-10, the coder performed at a 60% level in terms of productivity. "That was a concern, and that gives some color behind the use of technology," Westerlind said. "It's about making up for that gap, and that's where CAC comes in."

The transition also is going to incentivize many coders to take an early retirement, Krotz pointed out, leaving another gap for CAC technology and other resources to fill. "The average coder age is 57," she said. "Organizations aren't just thinking about CAC technology, but also about outsourcing coder services." This way, she said, current coders won't have to battle yet another learning curve. By outsourcing services, Krotz said, "results could be better."

As large healthcare providers test the limits, many smaller groups question the value. Also in the new, all-digital Big Data Analytics issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Ask these six questions about natural language processing before you buy. (Free with registration.)