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May 16, 2014 News No Comments

Technology Could be the Great Equalizer under ICD-10
by Tom Giannulli, MD, MS


As an internal medicine physician, I get the best of both worlds. I have relationships with my patients like a family practice provider, but I get to treat more complex conditions and deal with challenges like a specialist. I love what I do, and I am not the only one. Recent studies show that many providers love their specialty and would choose it again. In the Physicians Practice 2013 Great American Physician Survey, nearly 80 percent of physicians said they were fairly happy with their choice of specialty. In addition, given the chance, they would roughly do everything the same way again. However, we are all practicing different kinds of medicine, and we face different kinds of day-to-day challenges.

The switch to ICD-10 is no different. I have no doubt that come Oct. 1, 2015, we’ll all wish we were practicing in a simpler specialty like physical therapy, which uses a small handful of codes.

It is too late to change specialties, but it isn’t too late for physicians to change their attitudes about technology. Now is the time for them to get over whatever is holding them back and embrace what technology can do for medical practices. The recent ICD-10 delay has actually given practices a little more time to prepare properly.

One of the main reasons for the delay was the concern about physician practice readiness. When a recent MGMA survey evaluated preparedness around ICD-10, more than 90 percent of respondents indicated they were concerned about changes to clinical documentation, coding, staff productivity, and changes to clinical productivity.

The right technology could be the solution, and now practices have adequate time to choose those solutions and implement them effectively. Consider the five ways that technology can simplify workflow for physicians and help a practice prepare for ICD-10:

  1. Billing and practice management software should be able to run an ICD-9 top codes report. This eliminates the need for your staff to dig through claims to identify top codes, speeding the process of code mapping.
  2. Software vendors should be preparing the systems to submit claims to payers so that practices don’t have to connect with each payer or clearinghouse individually.
  3. The EHR should offer tools to help ensure the most complete and accurate documentation possible. With click-to-pick menus and customizable templates, physicians can more easily get documentation up to snuff for ICD-10.
  4. Eliminate the possibility of a 10-page superbill. For complex specialties, ICD-10 could easily mean a superbill that is three or four times the length of what practices have now. Not only does the practice have to update the paper form, but healthcare providers will have to wade through and complete it by hand for each visit. An EHR allows providers to complete a superbill by clicking and picking the codes. It can even suggest codes based on the notes and auto-fill codes based on entering the first few characters. With an integrated billing system, physicians can send the electronic superbill with the click of a button.
  5. Access code-mapping crosswalks. Software should offer users a crosswalk so when an ICD-9 code is entered, the equivalent ICD-10 code can be easily found. It doesn’t entirely replace having access to coding handbooks, but it can often make things faster and easier than doing it by hand every time.

There are a lot of reasons to consider implementing an EHR, and even more to choose a solution that offers integrated billing, practice management, and EHR. The change to ICD-10 is just one of those reasons, and certainly one of the best. According to the MGMA survey, more than 80 percent of practices know they need to upgrade their EHR or practice management systems to make the change to ICD-10. Don’t wait. By choosing the right software now, practices may able to mitigate some of the challenges and achieve a successful transition.

Tom Giannulli, MD, MS is CMIO at Kareo of Irvine, CA.

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