Saturday, September 5, 2015

Switch glitches starting already

With just under a month to go till the switch, problems are already becoming evident.

First, a study shows that over half of healthcare organizations are not ready for the switch.  Two-thirds of respondents were small physician practices with 1-10 doctors.  Worse, the report (warning: PDF) notes that 94% of respondents are concerned that the switch will increase their claims denial rate, meaning they will suffer cash flow issues as a result.

Second, the Medicaid programs of four states have announced that they will not be switching on October 1st, the date that healthcare provider organizations are required to switch.  Instead, they'll take incoming ICD-10 codes and convert them back to ICD-9, an approach that experts note is likely to cause numerous issues with accurate and timely payments.

The states involved are not all small ones with few providers, either.  They are California (most populous US state), Louisiana, Maryland, and Montana.

Worse still, some commercial health insurance companies might be doing the same thing.  But if they are, they have not made that information public, which is even more concerning.

We fully anticipate many more, and many worse, glitches as the switch date approaches and passes.  We'll note them here, unless of course, the nation finally wakes up and stops the switch.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Docs, feds compromise on switch

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a compromise on the switch to ICD-10-CM.  The AMA, for its part, will begin investing time and effort into helping physicians get ready for the switch.  CMS, in response, will approve claims encoded with ICD-10-CM even if the specific ICD-10-CM code used wouldn't normally meet "specificity" criteria for payment.  That means a doctor would receive payment for coding an injury with a code that does not indicate the laterality of the injury, for example.

Each side, however, remains firm on its stance on whether the switch should happen at all.  The AMA and many of its state-level affiliates (especially California, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania) remain staunchly opposed to the switch.  CMS remains insistent that the switch should and will occur.  Of course, Congress overrode that insistence last year, postponing the switch by an additional year.  This year, legislative relief from the switch seems unlikely, although we should all continue to press for it.  Stop the switch!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

More doctors organizations oppose the switch

The state medical societies of the four largest states in the country--California, Texas, Florida, and New York--have announced new opposition to the switch to ICD-10-CM.  In their letter (warning: PDF) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the four societies state ...mandatory implementation of the ICD-10-CM coding system is a looming disaster.  They note that simpler transitions to the HIPAA 5010 standard (a pre-requisite to ICD-10-CM) and the National Provider Identifier both had ...voluminous technical problems...

They end by saying: We remain steadfast in our belief that the ICD-10 coding system offers no real advantages to physicians and our patients — and certainly no advantages to justify the time and expense the entire health care system has invested in this transition.  As we have documented here, they are correct.  We should stop the switch.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Doctors and patients are ICD-10 losers

In a previous post, we identified the entities that stand to benefit from the switch to ICD-10-CM, namely companies that sell software to the healthcare industry.  Through forced upgrades to accommodate ICD-10-CM and new products to help healthcare providers negotiate the switch, they are benefitting to the tune of billions of dollars.

As noted by us, the Department of Veterans Affairs alone is spending $211 million on software and related services to help them with the switch.  State governments are similarly outlaying hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the systems that manage their Medicaid programs (note: another loser in the switch is the taxpayer).  And of course doctors and hospitals have to buy new versions of their billing/administrative and EHR systems.

Recent news reminds us, however, that among the losers are patients and doctors.  So if you are a recipient of healthcare, then you will lose in the switch to ICD-10-CM.

The main impact?  Doctors spending more time (than they do now) with medical records coders to ensure they get the correct code, so your insurance company will pay your doctor for your care.  That means the doctor spending less time with you.

Given the 15 minute rush appointments you have today, that sounds terrible.  We should stop the switch!

Monday, May 25, 2015

One, last, desperate hope to stop the switch

Representative Ted Poe (Texas, 2nd District) introduced H.R. 2126, the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015.  The official summary of the bill is as follows:

This bill prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from implementing, administering, or enforcing regulations that would replace ICD-9 (International Classification of Diseases) with ICD-10 as a code set for financial and administrative transactions involving the electronic exchange of health information. ICD is a system of diagnostic codes for classifying diseases.

This bill is very similar to the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2013 that Mr. Poe and former Senator Tom Coburn (OK) introduced, but never advanced in Congress.

Despite the merit of both bills, the factions that stand to benefit from ICD-10-CM (including medical records coders, information technology companies, and consultants) are fiercely lobbying against it and in favor of the switch.  Two major factions that ought to know better (hospitals and health plans) are paying lip service to the switch.

The only faction appropriately lobbying against the switch is doctors.  Dr. Steven Stack, President of the American Medical Association, threw the Association's support behind Poe's bill.

The conventional wisdom is that the bill is a long shot.  Having already given the AMA a long-wished-for permanent solution to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, Congress is not likely to wade into potentially contentious waters on doctors' behalf again this year.

Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do.  Congress, please stop the switch!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Study shows switch will create chaos in measuring patient safety

According to a study published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the switch to ICD-10-CM will result in ...substantial hospital safety reporting errors... In other words, the metrics hospitals use to report their performance on patient safety will be so distorted by the switch, valid pre- and post-switch comparisons will result in either (1) underreporting safety, leading patients to unnecessarily doubt the safety of a given hospital or (2) overreporting safety, leading patients to place false confidence in their hospitals.

The reason is that the national system for reporting safety, the so-called Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) created by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, rely on diagnosis codes for their calculation.  The switch to ICD-10-CM changes the meaning of the calculations, resulting in different PSI values based solely on whether ICD-9-CM or ICD-10-CM is used to compute them.

The study found that of 23 PSIs calculated using ICD-9-CM, 5 PSIs had no mapping to ICD-10-CM, 15 PSIs had 'convoluted' mappings to ICD-10-CM, and only 3 had straightforward mappings to ICD-10-CM.  A 'convoluted' mapping means that the ICD-9-CM code has no equivalent in ICD-10-CM, nor is it a more specific or more general code than the ICD-10-CM code(s) to which it maps.  That is, there is no ICD-10-CM that stands in a parent child relationship with it, or vice versa.

The authors estimated the impact of under- and over-reporting of the 15 convoluted PSIs.  They found a range of 100% underreporting of patient safety to 18% overreporting.

The switch to ICD-10-CM will create chaos for patients trying understand how safe an environment a given hospital offers.  We should not switch.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Disingenuous study underestimates costs of switch to physicians

A recent study published in the Journal of the Healthcare Information Management Association (JAHIMA) estimates the cost of the switch to ICD-10 at $8,167 per physician practice.  Per the study's authors: The ICD-10 expenditures reported in this survey and the two other recent studies are dramatically lower than the $22,560- $105,506 estimate for a small practice in an earlier study commissioned by the American Medical Association (AMA).

However, the JAHIMA study is not comparable to the Nachimson Advisor's study (warning: PDF) they cite, commissioned by the AMA.  The Nachimson Advisor's study did estimate a range of costs from $22,560 to $105,506 per practice.

However, the JAHIMA study did account for all the categories of costs that the Nachimson study did.  Both studies accounted for costs prior to the switch: manuals, ICD-10 documentation, software upgrades, training of physicians and office staff, and so on.

The JAHIMA study did not account for costs predicted to occur after the switch.  These costs include increased documentation costs and cash flow disruption.  Nachimson estimates these costs at $63,500 for a small practice, which far outweigh and dominate the pre-switch costs listed above.

Because the JAHIMA study ignored these costs, it is not comparable to Nachimson nor the true cost of the switch.

The cost of the switch will indeed outweigh its benefits.  Let's stop the switch!