ICD-10 go-live delays will cost early adopters

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The recent announcement by CMS that the date for ICD-10 implementation will be reconsidered will have a number of unintended (or more accurately, not thought out) consequences.

Many large providers, hybrids and academic medical centers are well on their way to meeting the current deadline and have significant investment made in both permanent and temporary staffing to support these projects. Also, many vendors are working hard to get their systems ready for ICD-10 and have established plans to complete prior to October 2014.

Unfortunately there is a great disconnect between the physician practices/AMA and the larger health systems and hospitals who have already invested considerable time and money working toward the October deadline. In a 2011 survey by HealthLeaders Media, respondents cited, "The No. 1 challenge providers named in preventing them from attaining ICD-10 readiness was physician cooperation" – who knew just how foreboding that statement would be!

Projects, much like aircraft carriers, cannot be stopped on a dime. There are many factors that have to be considered. First a decision has to be whether the project team needs to remain in place or be disbanded. Typically in large projects, there is a significant burn rate related to project team overhead. For example, a recent plan for a mid-sized hospital I completed showed an average of $25,000 a month in project burn. We calculated that based on the timing of an EMR and wanted to have contingency budget in place in the event the EMR remediation was delayed. For larger systems and conglomerates, this dollar amount could be in the 6-figure range.

Some facilities may disband their teams altogether if the delay is more than 3-6 months. This will result in lost tribal knowledge, talent and jobs as they look for other opportunities within the market. This will further strain the talent pool when the new date is set and you once again have the same volume of work with the same number of healthcare organizations racing toward a fixed point in time.

Vendors who have been frantically hiring for talent to support the demand on system upgrades and implementations will now have to reevaluate their talent position. Since they support projects for customers who may put time lines on hold, this will cause a ripple effect to the vendors. They will now have too many staff to do work that has been delayed and will be forced to lay off workers in order to remain profitable during the transition.

Finally, it is human nature for people to use all the time they have available to complete a task or project. In my many years working in information technology, this is especially true. If given more time, it will take more time. There is no doubt the Healthcare industry has a lot going on, however, delaying ICD-10 is untenable. Both for those who were doing the right thing by properly planning and starting work and for those who chose to do nothing. Either way, the ambiguity introduced into the environment by the "rules process" and the inevitable delay will cost people their jobs and facilities money that they can ill afford to waste.

Learn more about how Hielix can help with your ICD-10 project.

Category: Healthy Practices