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Stay On Course With ICD10 Plans, AHIMA Urges

American Health Information Management Association says AMA sends the wrong message in calling for halt to the new billing code implementation.

Neil Versel

February 1, 2012

3 Min Read

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In the wake of a widely publicized move by the American Medical Association (AMA) asking Congress to put a halt to the federal requirement that the healthcare industry switch to ICD-10 coding in 2013, at least one health IT advocacy group is warning hospitals and physician practices not to slow their implementation efforts.

"If healthcare providers stop their ICD-10 planning and implementation now and wait to see if Congress will take action, they will not be ready in time for the compliance date," said Dan Rode, vice president for advocacy and policy at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Rode called the transition to ICD-10, which must be complete by October 2013, a "fundamental part of healthcare reform in this country." "Without ICD-10 data, there will be serious gaps in our ability to extract important patient health information that will give physicians and the healthcare industry measures for quality of care, provide important public health surveillance, support modern-day research, and move to a payment system based on quality and outcome," he said in a statement.

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AHIMA was responding to a letter the AMA recently sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in which the physician organization asked Congress to "put a stop to" ICD-10 and its implementation. The AMA does not merely want a delay to the current timetable; it wants to scrap the entire diagnostic coding system completely.

"The implementation of ICD-10 will create significant burdens on the practice of medicine with no direct benefit to individual patient care, and will compete with other costly transitions associated with quality and health IT reporting programs," AMA CEO and senior vice president Dr. James Madara wrote in the Jan. 17 letter to Boehner. Madara cited the rapid acceleration in adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), the soon-to-be-mandatory Physician Quality Reporting System for Medicare participants, and the ongoing prospects of sharp Medicare reimbursement cuts.

The AMA leader also asked for policymakers and other healthcare stakeholders to come up with an "appropriate replacement" for the current ICD-9 coding system, which AHIMA said is 35 years old. Madara was acting on the orders of the AMA House of Delegates, which voted last November to "work vigorously to stop" the transition to ICD-10.

Rode cautioned that the AMA letter could have the effect of encouraging doctors to slow down or even stop their ICD-10 implementation activities, even as the October 2013 deadline remains on the books. "If your association says stop, how do you read that?" Rode asked. "It's not so much what they did, but the message they sent out when they did this," he told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Rode said he recently has had discussions with AMA board members, and he reported that they agreed that physicians who are implementing EHRs in pursuit of federal bonuses for Meaningful Use "might as well get a system that can do ICD-10." However, the AMA resolution and letter call for replacing ICD-10 completely.

The AHIMA executive said he was not aware of any healthcare informatics organizations that were interested in developing a new coding system.

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About the Author(s)

Neil Versel


Neil Versel is a journalist specializing in health IT, mobile health, patient safety, quality of care & the business of healthcare. He’s also a board member of @HealtheVillages.

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