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!

Friday, February 13, 2015

House committee hearing on ICD-10 stacked with proponents of the switch

The United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on February 11, 2015 about the switch to ICD-10-CM.  However, the lawmakers on the Subcommittee stacked the deck in favor of the switch: six out of seven individuals spoke in favor of it.

Because the procedure for such testimony involves witnesses submitting a written version of what they will say in person ahead of time, these lawmakers knew the panel was egregiously unbalanced.  Therefore, this Subcommittee had already made up its mind, and the hearing was merely for show, to bolster a predetermined course of action.

Of course, that's how politics works in Washington D.C., so it comes as no surprise.  However, this approach to legislation is exactly why the public has no faith in Congress, and why Congress has the lowest approval rating of any part of the U.S. government.

The token dissenter made similar arguments to what we have put forth here: there is absolutely no need for over 200 codes for diabetes mellitus.  Actually, it's closer to 300.

At least three of the other panelists stand to benefit financially from the switch.  Rich Averill is from 3M Health Information Systems, which creates software to help organizations code with ICD.  A forced upgrade of all their customers to software that accommodates ICD-10-CM will certainly help 3M's bottom line.

Sue Bowman is from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).  This organization represents individuals who code medical records with ICD for billing purposes.  AHIMA creates and sells training materials and courses to its members, so it certainly will see better financials as all its members sign up.

Lastly, Kristi Matus is the chief financial and administrative officer for athenahealth, a healthcare information technology company that sells software and services to physician practices.  Again, the forced upgrades to versions of their software that support ICD-10-CM will boost revenue significantly.

Well, so much for an objective review of the wisdom of the switch, and the possibility of taking wiser and more fiscally responsible courses of action.