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ICD-10 Implementation Delay: A Look at the Implications

The recent proposal to delay the implementation of ICD-10 by one full year has received a mixed response from healthcare organizations. Many hospitals and medical practices that had started working on the transition (and were making progress) are frustrated by the delay. They fear it may halt momentum and slow forward movement. Conversely, many of those organizations that had not begun work are relieved by the date change—and glad they had not started preparation efforts in earnest.

Regardless of whether your practice is frustrated or relieved by the delay, the implications will be the same: You should anticipate some changes to your implementation plan. While the steps involved in completing the ICD-10 transition project will remain the same— for example, assessing your practice’s current ICD-9 use, mapping codes, upgrading software, educating physicians and staff, and testing—the deadlines for these efforts will change. Practices need to review and re-evaluate both internal deadlines and external ones, such as those agreed upon by vendors and payers.

When reviewing and revising implementation dates, practices will need to commit to an implementation strategy. Some may choose to keep on their previously established schedule and use the extra year as a cushion for more testing. Others may further delay getting started, choosing instead to focus on other large-scale projects like implementing a new electronic health record (EHR). Still others may commit to taking a slow and steady approach to implementation and recalibrate deadlines so the practice reaches the ICD-10 finish line in a calm and orderly fashion, as opposed to a break neck race to the end.

No matter what approach your practice takes, it will require some decisions. Spend time reviewing your current plan for implementation (or developing a plan if you don’t already have one) to see how timeframes will change. That will help you decide where and when to focus your transition efforts and ensure a successful end result.