Monday, June 29, 2009

Hospitals: ICD-10 Switch Inhibits "Meaningful Use" of EMRs

The "stimulus package"--more formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009--promises doctors and hospitals increased reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid if they become "meaningful users" of electronic medical records (EMRs). Of course, the Act leaves open the definition of meaningful use, leading to yet another rulemaking process similar to the one that produced the mandate to switch to ICD-10-CM.

In its comments to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT), the American Hospital Association (AHA) correctly recognizes that the switch to ICD-10-CM will drain away resources from their efforts to become meaningful users of EMRs. In response, the AHA says that ONCHIT should slow down and lighten the criteria for "meaningful use."

The AHA comments (warning: pdf) say:

Staging the requirements and use levels in the definition also should recognize other HIT initiatives already underway and the likely vendor and workforce constraints hospitals may face. Hospitals are required to move to the new X12 Version of 5010 HIPAA standards in 2010 and ICD-10 in 2013. The AHA also is concerned that vendors will not be able to improve, test, implement and support HIT systems in hospitals nationwide due to the increased and simultaneous demand for HIT services and products. Vendor and hospital IT workforce capacity constraints should be considered as well.

In other words, the switch to ICD-10-CM will pull resources away from hospitals' ability to achieve meaningful use of EMRs.

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