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Readers Write: ACA versus ICD-10: US Media Failure and Why I Really Can’t Sleep At Night

November 15, 2013 Readers Write No Comments

ACA versus ICD-10: US Media Failure and Why I Really Can’t Sleep At Night
By Rebecca Wiedmeyer

11-15-2013 7-17-57 PM

Thanks to the ever-pervasive, sound bite-driven American media outlets, many citizens have predisposed notions surrounding the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) and the “mishandling” of Healthcare.gov (for anyone out of the loop, there has been a struggle for individuals to log on and apply for the payer program offered by the ACA.) The  US mass media, along with the American government, has made this a key election issue and a prequel to the political debates  ahead of us in 2016. If the ACA is keeping you awake at night, I challenge you to consider the opinion of an insider in the field.

In its infancy, the ACA was a platform that immediately drew attention from political parties, physicians, and many in the healthcare field (myself included.) Subsequent to its introduction, this bill has morphed into a 2,700+  page, over-earmarked staple of Congress that, while admirably striving for change in healthcare, is not quite what either side of party lines was aiming to achieve. Meanwhile, there are initiatives and deadlines that loom ominously. Foremost, at least in my mind, is ICD-10 compliance.

Less than a year away, the ICD-10 movement is set to completely disrupt the current workflows, reimbursement  models, and documentation practices within healthcare IT. As a nation, we are set to transition between the current system of ICD-9 (~18,000 codes) to the WHO-approved (as of 20 years ago) system of coding, which utilizes around 146,000 codes. As anyone in HIT can imagine, this will have trickle-down effects that are unfathomable. Revenue will almost certainly be lost, practices will bankrupt, vendors will go out of business, and, the most incomprehensible part to me, this issue seems to be low on the list of agenda items for the American public, but also our field.

Not that there are a lack of exceptions. Many EHR vendors I have collaborated with, for instance, have a firm grasp of the gravity of ICD-10. Even more encouraging, there are vendors specializing in the education of physicians and directors, as well as billing offices and coders, with regards to compliance. However, with less than a year to go, the clock is ticking.

I have spoken candidly with industry executives who admitted building into budget up to a 70 percent revenue loss upon the introduction to ICD-10. Physicians deserve better than that and patients deserve better than that, not to mention the vendors that are at the mercy of government policy and its whim (not to mention client demands.) Agenda-setting has gone too far.

For any sleepless nights regarding the ACA, I am the first to concede it is far from perfect, so perhaps your anxiety is not unfounded. However, a lack of understanding of what is ahead looms as a far more dangerous challenge than a lackluster website performance of the moment.

Rebecca Wiedmeyer is chief communications officer of EHR Scope.

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