ICD-10: The road ahead

October 1st, 2015 / By Richard Averill, MS

After decades of development, endless regulatory hurdles and multiple delays, the implementation date for ICD-10 has arrived. If ICD-10 had a theme song, it certainly would be “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles. “Don’t leave me standing here” is the lyric that sums up the frustrations of enduring repeated last minute delays. Finally, the healthcare industry will no longer be left standing in the past, chained to the out-of-date and inadequate ICD-9 coding system.

The road to this point has certainly been long and winding. Reaching this milestone is the result of perseverance by all healthcare stakeholders, and the leadership of many—people like Sue Bowman of AHIMA, Pat Brooks at CMS, Marjorie Greenberg of the NCVHS, Nelly Leon-Chisen at the American Hospital Association, and Donna Pickett at NCHS. After the 2014 delay, virtually the entire healthcare industry came together to demand that we move forward. Through the Coalition for ICD-10 that demand was backed up by aggressive political advocacy and lobbying to Congress. No matter how many times the crocodile versus alligator bite example was brought up, no matter how many times the number of codes was brought up, ICD-10 advocates patiently explained the rationale and benefits of the specificity in ICD-10. Fortunately, common sense prevailed in the end.

Another lyric in the song, “…The wild and windy night,” reminds us that there will be challenges ahead. The healthcare industry as a whole, especially CMS, has made remarkable progress to be ICD-10 ready. But with a change of this magnitude it is almost impossible to avoid every bump in the road. While readiness to accept ICD-10 codes is nearly universal, the conversion of every internal system to ICD-10 may still be a work in progress for some organizations. But with good planning and the right resources this can be a manageable short-term challenge.

The entire healthcare industry can now look forward to the enormous benefit that ICD-10 will bring from more accurate payments, a more precise assessment of quality, better detection of fraudulent claims, fewer claim rejections, fewer requests for additional information, more effective disease management, a better understanding of the efficacy of new technologies, and a greater ability to detect new and emerging health threats.

For the many 3M research analysts, nosologists, clinicians, software developers, consultants, and product, sales and support teams that have worked for so many years to help prepare the industry for ICD-10, we arrive at this moment with the continued commitment to help all our clients achieve a smooth and successful transition. The road may have been long and winding, but the destination is now in sight: a modern 21st century data infrastructure that lays the foundation for better, more affordable health care.

Richard Averill is senior healthcare policy advisor for 3M Health Information Systems.