ICD-10 delay: canary in the coal mine
April 1, 2014 in Medical Technology
The news that someone slipped a provision into the Sustainable Growth Rate patch legislation that will once again delay the transition to ICD-10 is disappointing, and symptomatic of the seemingly unreliable relationship that exists among providers, technology vendors, and the government.
Whether the adoption of an already two-decade-old coding system is going to meaningfully transform care is certainly up for debate. But as a proxy for the HIT industry’s ability to handle change on behalf of providers, the latest ICD-10 delay is a troubling canary in the coal mine.
Most of the nation and its healthcare-oriented punditry is correctly focused on the larger issue: the news that Congress has once again failed to solve the ongoing problem of Medicare reimbursements and will once again kick the can down the road another year. We too are disappointed in that development. But while everyone else focuses on that larger issue, policymakers concerned with the tens of billions of dollars that the government has poured into health IT, ostensibly to bring our care delivery system into the 21st century information economy, should not overlook the importance of the latest ICD-10 delay.
[See also: ICD-10 delayed, doc pay patched again.]
To be specific, over the last five years our government has spent more than 20 billion taxpayer dollars to install electronic health record technologies, many of which apparently cannot implement a change in diagnosis codes that the rest of the world implemented years ago. ICD-10 readiness for providers is about much more than the availability of mere technical functionality; it’s about having the support necessary to successfully achieve ICD-10 compliance, which includes things like training and business processes. That the government felt compelled to delay the ICD-10 transition reflects not a failure of healthcare providers, but a failing health information technology industry that’s unable to support providers in navigating change.
Healthcare providers need and deserve technology partners that will step up and do what it takes to ensure their success in meeting the complex demands of our changing healthcare system: from the ICD-10 transition to the meaningful use program; from the transition to risk-based payments to the demands of care coordination. The government needs to stop subsidizing dysfunction by accommodating technology vendors that time and time again leave providers high and dry.
[See also: ICD-10 delay rattles industry groups.]
In recent years, caregivers have been asked to do backflips to absorb huge changes to their practices, their approach to care, and how they get paid. If we’re ever to achieve our ambitious triple aim around cost, quality, and the patient experience, they’re going to need technology partners that can move beyond excuses to keep up their end of the bargain.
Ed Park is vice president and COO of athenahealth.