As you know, Congress officially delayed ICD-10 until at least October 2015 earlier this week. The move is not surprising since, despite all the talk surrounding the transition, it’s clear that providers are largely underprepared for the previous Oct 1, 2014 deadline. Having an extra year to prepare raises its own important questions though, including when the new deadline will actually be. Healthcare providers should view this not just as an opportunity for a smoother transition, but a chance to evaluate and optimize parts of their revenue cycle to fully realize the benefits of a functioning ICD-10 process.
Take advantage of better documentation
This is the most important reason for the transition. Improved documentation of care benefits the provider, the payer, and the patient. Though absorbing an exponential amount of new codes is already proving to be time-consuming, more detailed claims will hopefully speed up the revenue cycle process. Additionally, the specific nature of each code gives your business office an opportunity to invoice your patients in terms they understand- even if that term is “W22.02XS: Walked into lamppost”.
Optimize your process before the transition
The ICD-10 delay gives healthcare providers, especially ones who have been diligently planning for the original October deadline, a chance to upgrade any parts of their revenue cycle process that may be underperforming, such as payment options or collections. Does it make sense to invest time in clarified billing language if the other parts of your processes are not optimized? In less than two months, months that would have been spent hastily training and testing, you can get some quick, easy wins by plugging in payment features like online bill pay, payment plans, 24/7 phone cashier, and automated consolidation of payments. These things will take the pressure off of your billing staff when they are stressed out about the impending transition.
Evaluate your technology
No one in healthcare has any extra time. In fact, I’m sure that if you could get back inefficient time spent with manual processes through automation, you could put that time toward much better (and more profitable) use. Proper use of technology can bring measurable improvements to your facility without major disruption. Is your current technology doing that? Evaluate whether there are areas that could be improved or optimized during this extension. There probably are. We all have things we can improve.
No matter how prepared you are, use this delay as a chance to make those improvements you’ve been putting off; you’ll thank me in a year.