Feds delay ICD-10 medical coding deadline for one year

Healthcare IT executives unhappy with delay

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday announced the finalization of a rule that will delay by one year the deadline for healthcare providers to implement the ICD-10 medical coding system.

ICD-10, which is designed to better track diagnoses and treatments, affects dozens of core applications for healthcare providers and insurance payers.

The deadline delay was not unexpected as HHS announced it was considering a deadline delay at the beginning of the year. The HHS, in February, said it was considering the delay in response to requests from healthcare providers who claimed they are already overwhelmed by requirements to transition to electronic medical records by 2015.

The ICD-10 delay moves the deadline from Oct. 1, 2013 to Oct 1, 2014, the date by which covered entities, such as hospitals and insurers, must comply with International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnosis and procedure codes (ICD-10).

Not everyone is happy about delay. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) published a terse response to HHS's rule, saying more delays in implementing ICD-10 would disrupt ongoing efforts to convert electronic systems. CHIME has 1,400 CIOs and 70 healthcare IT vendors and professional services firms as members.

"As HHS itself recognizes, a longer delay would significantly increase the costs of converting to ICD-10. Overall, CHIME applauds the efforts of HHS to quickly and decisively signal a commitment to ICD-10 conversion, and we urge the Department to develop a clear path forward, with benchmarks, so that healthcare industry stakeholders can make the conversion in 2014," said CHIME President and CEO Richard Correll.

The move from ICD-9 to ICD-10, which replaces about 15,000 codes with approximately 68,000 new ones, comes at a time when care providers are already under the gun to implement and prove to the federal government the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR).

ICD-10 codes provide more robust and specific data that will help improve patient care and enable the exchange of U.S. health care data with other nations already using ICD-10. Entities covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) will be required to use the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedure codes.

The changeover will probably cost larger hospitals between $2 million and $5 million, and large care groups as much as $20 million, said James Swanson, director of client services at Virtusa, an IT services and consulting company.

The new HHS rule is one of a series of changes required by the Affordable Care Act to cut red tape and save $6 billion over the next 10 years, according to HHS. The rule adopts the standard for a national unique health plan identifier (HPID) and a data element that will serve as an "other entity" identifier (OEID). An OEID is an identifier for entities that are not health plans, health care providers, or individuals, but that need to be identified in standard transactions, such as insurance companies.

"The most significant benefit of the HPID and the OEID is that they will increase standardization within the HIPAA standard transactions," HHS stated.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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