Saturday, November 19, 2011

ICD-10 precursor delayed: Will ICD-10 be next?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will delay enforcement of its rule that all covered entities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) upgrade from the 4010 standard for claims transactions to the 5010 standard.  CMS has said that it will not enforce the January 1, 2012 deadline, delaying such action now until March 31, 2012.

Now, for someone unfamiliar with the details of CMS, HIPAA, and how health insurance claims in the United States are handled, the preceding paragraph will make no sense.  The rest of this paragraph is a primer.  Those who understood the previous paragraph may skip to the next one.  In the United States, to receive reimbursement for their services, healthcare providers such as hospitals and physicians must submit insurance claims on behalf of the insured, who waives her right to receive payment on the claim (and so the doctor/hospital receives payment of the claim directly without going through the insured party).  Because nearly everyone over the age of 65 in the United States is insured by the federal government through CMS, and because nearly every doctor and hospital in the United States cares for patients ensured by CMS, CMS has broad leverage to force doctors and hospitals to change how they care for all patients by dictating how they care for CMS patients.  And hence, just about every doctor and hospital in the United States is a "covered entity" under the HIPAA law.  CMS has the authority under HIPAA to dictate how covered entities submit their insurance claims to CMS.  It is a general rule that private insurance companies follow CMS, so they require providers to follow HIPAA claims transactions standards as well.

Now, the primary, HIPAA-mandated insurance claims standards are a family of standards that go under the broad heading of '4010'.  CMS has mandated that covered entities upgrade to the 5010 family, in large part because it is necessary to implement 5010 before switching to ICD-10.

The delay to 5010 therefore puts the October 1, 2013 deadline for the ICD-10 switch at risk.  And because October 1 represents the first day of the federal fiscal year, it will be difficult to manage anything other than a delay that is an integral number of years (October 1, 2014, 2015, etc.) in the switch to ICD-10.

This delay in the 5010 deadline and the AMA's decision to fight the switch to ICD-10 are just manifestations of the unrealistic expectations, and the policies based on them, that this blog has pointed out for three years. 

Yes, stop the switch.  Let's have an open and honest conversation about what our next-generation information infrastructure should be, and what diagnosis coding system can best support it.

American Medical Association: STOP THE SWITCH

Well, for sure this post is well behind the news.   The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates on Tuesday voted to "to work vigorously to stop implementation" of ICD-10.

In their own words:

The implementation of ICD-10 will create significant burdens on the practice of medicine with no direct benefit to individual patients' care," said Peter W. Carmel, M.D., AMA president. At a time when we are working to get the best value possible for our health care dollar, this massive and expensive undertaking will add administrative expense and create unnecessary workflow disruptions. The timing could not be worse as many physicians are working to implement electronic health records into their practices. We will continue working to help physicians keep their focus where it should be – on their patients.

Naturally, the next question is what will the AMA will do to derail the ICD-10 train? Well, apparently it is still too soon to tell, but it is up to the AMA Board of Trustees to implement House of Delegates resolutions, in general.   Per the chair of the Board, Dr. Robert Wah, limited resources also constrain what the AMA will be able to do to fight the switch.

The AMA is certain to endure harsh criticism for its stance. Already, some are already reacting to the AMA's decision by repeating the myths that (1) ICD-10 is advanced, (2) it will improve care for patients, (3) it will improve information management in support of #2, and (4) the U.S. is backwards because other nations have implemented ICD-10. We have shown on this blog that all these assertions are untrue.

On the contrary, the AMA is to be applauded for its courageous stance against ICD-10.

Thus, we offer to the AMA, as a modest resource, the documentation on this blog, over a multiple-year period, of the many reasons and truths about the switch, and why it will certainly not afford the benefits its proponents claim.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Latest call for ICD-10 switch repeats the myths

Dr. Wendy Wittington, Chief Medical Information Office for Dallas-based Anthelio Healthcare Solutions, repeats several ICD-10 myths in her advocacy for the ICD-10 switch:

Myth #1: "...the switch is truly necessary"

We don't have to switch to ICD-10-CM. As we previously discussed here, there is an alternative approach, that is superior to ICD-10-CM.

Myth #2: ICD-10 is more modern

ICD-10 is still based on the same, antiquated, classification architecture as ICD-9-CM (see here, here, here, here, and here). So although it may reflect how medicine has evolved, it does not reflect informatics best practices. ICD-10-CM's underlying information architecture remains in the 1970s with ICD-9-CM medical terminology. The government is developing ICD-10-CM using a word processor!

Myth #3: ICD-10-CM will accurately translate what physicians do to payers.

Doctors don't recognize 318 kinds of diabetes mellitus (see here and here). Doctors don't use the terms "not otherwise specified" and "not elsewhere classified". Doctors don't speak in classifications, they speak in medical terminology. Doctors don't combine multiple patient characteristics into new diagnoses.

Myth #4: ICD-10-CM is necessary for evidence based medicine and comparative-effectiveness research.

As long as it's a classification and not a nomenclature, it will not be sufficient.

Myth #5: Silly codes do not get in the way.

See here for what a "silly code" is. They increase the cost, difficulty, and complexity of switching. Only necessary codes should be present. They will also inflate the number of search results a physician must process in an electronic medical record when looking for codes. For example, a search for "diabetes mellitus" will return 318 results!

Myth #6: Other countries have switched, therefore we're an embarrasment

Following the pack is not always a wise strategy. For many reasons listed on this blog, switching to something other than ICD-10-CM would be leading, not following. And certainly not embarrassing.

Myth #7: "...a lot of hospitals and healthcare providers have ignored it or put it on the backburner because they are too busy with meaningful use requirements"

Whoops! That one's not a myth. Meeting meaningful use requirements is probably a better expenditure of resources, and hospitals and physicians know it and appear to be acting accordingly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nearly Half of Leading Healthcare Organizations Are Not Yet Switching to ICD-10-CM

A report by HealthLeaders Media finds that nearly half of healthcare leaders have not yet even begun to prepare for the ICD-10-CM switch. Overwhelmed with competing priorities, hospitals and health plans have not started on ICD-10-CM despite a misguided belief that it will help with their quality improvement efforts (72% of respondents) and a real belief that it will negatively impact revenue for years to come (46% of respondents).

Healthcare reform and the electronic health record are higher priorities. Let's turn off the switch.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

ICD-10-CM Prerequisite at Risk

A Medical Management Group Association (MGMA) survey finds that just over 45% of physicians have not begun the process to upgrade to a standard that is a prerequisite for the ICD-10-CM switch. The ICD-10-CM switch requires that doctors and health plans upgrade from a standard called '4010' to its successor, 5010.

The reason: 4010 arbitrarily limited the number of characters for diagnosis codes to the maximum contained in ICD-9-CM: 5. Now, ICD-10-CM has diagnosis codes that stretch to as many as 7 characters. So, before the U.S. can start using ICD-10-CM codes for payment and reimbursement purposes, it must first upgrade the standards for submitting insurance claims.

To be sure, 5010 has other changes intended to improve the standard as well. But also to be sure, ICD-10-CM is a non-starter without it.

So, now comes news that physicians are struggling with the prerequisite to ICD-10-CM, let alone ICD-10-CM itself.

The survey results also mention that the cost of the 5010 upgrade is $16,000 per physician. With approximately 660,000 physicians in the United States today, the cost of the 5010 upgrade is $10.56 billion.

However, the final rule (warning: PDF) that mandated the 5010 upgrade states that "... the new estimate of total cost for physicians and other providers segment to implement Version 5010 is between $544 million to $1,088 million."

Too low by a factor of 9.7!

And this cost dwarfs the rosy estimates of benefit: the final 5010 rule states that "...the new estimate for physician savings due to better standards is $1,392 million and operational savings due to increase in the use of auxiliary claim transactions are $4,443 million".

So the cost already is dwarfing the best-case scenario for benefit by a factor of two.

Given that similar problems exist already with the estimates of cost and benefit of ICD-10-CM, we could save countless healthcare dollars by aborting the switch. Now!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hospitals: ICD-10 Switch Means the EHR Must Wait

The American Hospital Association sent a letter (PDF) to the Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee urging a delay in implementing stage 2 of Meaningful Use criteria for electronic medical records (EMRs), in large part because hospitals are otherwise busy in switching to ICD-10-CM.

Both ICD-10-CM and EMR adoption are unfunded mandates of the federal government, although there are incentives for EMR adoption (non-adoption will eventually result in penalties that come in the form of reduced reimbursements per service). To qualify for incentives for EMR adoption, hospitals must demonstrate "meaningful use", and the federal government has set criteria for it. However, the criteria will become more stringent over time. Currently hospitals must meet "Stage 1" criteria.

The letter is about when "Stage 2" meaningful-use criteria should go into effect. Hospitals are saying that the government should delay stage 2 criteria, because the burden of switching to ICD-10-CM is too high.

As we reported here, hospitals previously asked the government to back off on meaningful use because of the switch to ICD-10-CM.

Of course, we think the EMR is more important, and that ICD-10-CM should take the back seat. Nevertheless, it illustrates one significant effect of the ICD-10-CM switch: delayed adoption of EMRs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

ICD-10 or Meaningful Use? Between a rock and a hard place.

The HIT Policy Steering Committee is debating whether delaying stage 2 of meaningful use would allow healthcare providers more time and resources to negotiate succesfully the switch to ICD-10 (or more precisely, ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS).

The conflict between electronic medical record (EMR) adoption and the switch to ICD-10-CM first surfaced almost immediately after passage of the HITECH Act that incentivizes EMR adoptoin, and is highlighted by a letter from the American Hospital Association and a letter from numerous doctors' organizations.

Despite our prediction that the ICD-10-CM switch would pull resources from meeting MU, it turns out that meeting MU is taking resources from the ICD-10-CM switch.

Now, the HIT Policy Steering Committee is starting to recognize that resource-constrained healthcare providers will have severe difficulties doing both. However, it should have realized this problem much sooner since they certainly were privy to the letters sent above, dated in June, 2009. Almost two years ago!

Now they propose to delay MU "stage 2" criteria, to allow resource-constrained providers to meet the ICD-10-CM mandate.

Why not propose instead that the switch to ICD-10-CM be postponed or even canceled?

Granted, they can only control directly the timing of stage 2 MU, but surely the members of the Steering Committee have some influence with decision makers in Health and Human Services?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Doctors: Regulatory burden crowds out health care reform

In a letter to Donald Berwick, MD, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American Medical Association lists the regulations that have been and continue to be most burdensome to physicians.

I will let the letter speak for itself (emphasis exactly as in original). Note that ACA = Affordable Care Act, the major healthcare reform bill enacted into law in 2010.

The human and technological investments needed to participate in quality incentives are competing for physician time and resources needed to move to an enormous new set of diagnosis codes in ICD-10. The struggle to keep up leaves little time to get engaged in the practice redesign and payment and delivery reforms envisioned in the ACA and detracts from patient care just as the ACA is promising access to millions of uninsured Americans. We strongly urge the Administration and CMS to carefully consider the impact the collision of these compliance deadlines will have on physicians, patients and the ACA’s promise of better care for more people.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Breathtaking Scope of ICD-10-CM Revisions for 2011

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just released a 2011 version of ICD-10-CM. A quick look at the "ICD-10-CM 2010 to 2011 Addenda" reveals a breathtaking scope of change.

First, the "Addenda" document (misnamed, since it also includes things removed and edited, not just added) for the tabular index totals 185 pages in a file nearly 1MB in size. Second, the changes span every chapter of ICD-10-CM.

Worse still, is that numerous codes have undergone a change in meaning, something decried by experts in medical informatics over 16 years ago.

Here is an example:

C64.1 Malignant neoplasm of right kidney, except renal pelvis

is now:

C64.1 Malignant neoplasm of left kidney, except renal pelvis

The update also deletes codes, which also militates against best practices in medical terminology management. Deleted codes include C64.0, C65.0, C66.0.

Anyone trying to update software applications that take advantage of particular codes for logic-based processing will surely have to review all 185 pages very carefully to esnure that their logic remains consistent. DRGs will have to be reviewed as well.

These substantial changes just 1.5 years prior to the deadline to switch will increase the cost and complexity of the switch. Another unwelcome development in the long, sad saga of ICD-10-CM.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Absurd arguments for ICD-10-CM

Sometimes, the arguments in favor of ICD-10-CM border on the absurd. In the January, 2011 issue of Healthcare IT News, the increased "specificity" of ICD-10-CM is highlighted as improving cost savings and disease management. What evidence are we given? The following list of codes:

I'm sure that there are hundreds of billions of dollars to be saved in the health care system, now that we can only code dolphin and sea lion bites better.

Dr. Joel Diamond, in his Health Interoperability Blog, documents similarly absurd arguments here. One proponent of ICD-10-CM said we'd be better off because we would be able to document not just "sports injury", but also whether the injured party was struck by a basketball, baseball, or football.

Busy clinicians trying to take care of sick patients are the ones we will rely on to code this additional specificity, however. Do we really want to distract them from patient care to find the code for dolphin vs. sea lion bites, or strikings by basketball vs. baseball? Is this really the best use of six-figure talent?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The cost of switching to ICD-10-CM has been underestimated: Proof.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is spending $211 million on software and services for the switch to ICD-10-CM. And this expenditure is on a third-party alone, let alone the time its employees are devoting to managing the switch.

So, how does this dollar figure comport with the estimates that various entities made of the costs of the switch to ICD-10-CM?

Well, as it happens, it is well out of bounds of any of the estimates.

First, the RAND report (warning: PDF) that estimated the costs of the switch failed to account for any costs to the VA for the switch. Oops. The RAND report estimated a cost of $425–1,150 million for the switch, so this $211 million expenditure on the part of the VA inflates RAND's estimate by 19-50%.

Therefore, RAND's estimate of the overall cost of the switch is significantly low.

Next, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in its final regulatory rule (warning: PDF) mandating the switch, did account for VA software expenditures to manage the switch. HHS estimated that the VA would spend a total of $24-31.35 million on software and systems, not counting training and planning. Even if we add training and planning (assuming that the contract includes those functions), HHS estimated no more than $113.8 million in spending on software/systems by the VA.

Thus, the $211 million figure is nearly double the amount that HHS expected, at a minimum.

HHS pegged total costs of the switch at ~$2.3-2.6 billion. So this overrun of its estimate for the VA represents 3.7% of the highest estimate by HHS for the total, national cost of the switch.

What other overruns are government agencies, providers, and payers experiencing. In other words, where else, and by how much, are the estimates too low?

Stay tuned.

We have always maintained that the estimates were unrealistically low, and now we have presented proof.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Doctors spending on EMRs instead of ICD-10-CM switch

As I noted in a previous post, doctors have insufficient resources to both adopt electronic medical records and switch to ICD-10-CM.

As this story indicates, doctors have been focusing resources on meeting the federal government's "meaningful use" criteria for EMRs at the expense of the switch to ICD-10-CM. Specifically, two thirds of physicians responding to a survey reported spending resources on "meaningful use" in favor of ICD-10-CM.

Of course, in my post, I said that the switch would slow down meeting "meaningful use", but it appears that the converse is happening, and that "meaningful use" is slowing down the switch.

Regardless, the switch ought to be deferred to allow physicians to meet "meaningful use".