HomeTown Health Launches a “100 Day Countdown” in Response to ICD-10 Survey

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Survey Results Report Only 37% of Rural Providers Ready for Go Live on October 1st, 2015


"THIS is the critical one that can close a hospital’s doors, and we want hospitals to be aware of the need to be prepared."

On October 1, 2015 the transition to ICD-10 will happen despite congressional efforts for another delay.

On Monday, June 1st Congressman Kevin Brady, chairman of the Health Subcommittee for the House Ways and Means Committee, and 12 members of the Committee sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urging the administration to provide a smooth transition for local physicians as CMS rolls out ICD-10. ICD-10 is the newest coding system for healthcare professionals to code diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases.

Congressman Brady stated, “Our local health-care providers have already taken on the financial and administrative burden of transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10. Unlike the disastrous rollout of healthcare.gov in the Affordable Care Act, this Administration owes it to our local doctors to ensure a smooth transition to ICD-10 and ensure the October 1, 2015 implementation deadline doesn’t cause widespread disruption,” reported the Houston News.

The implementation of ICD-10 is a project unlike any that the healthcare industry has attempted in the last 20 years. To prepare for the October 1, 2015 deadline, more than 50 hospitals in the Southeast, along with their community physician practices, are participating in the HomeTown Health “ICD-10 Survival Program.” HomeTown Health, a network of more than 70 rural hospitals in the Southeast, has partnered with the experts to provide AHIMA and AAPC accredited ICD-10 education to staff and physicians, along with hiring an ICD-10 AHIMA certified instructor, Annie Lee Sallee, to lead the program. In addition, the organization employed a physician with a unique skill set: a 25-year cardiologist and certified coder to address physician needs, Dr. James S. Dunnick, MD, FACC, CHCQM, CPC. Together, Mrs. Sallee and Dr. Dunnick created project management tools, tasks lists, and online education courses to ensure that a provider is able to transition smoothly to ICD-10, but time is running out with less than 90 working days left before the deadline.

According to Annie Lee Sallee, there is a common misconception among many healthcare providers in that “the transition to ICD‐10 is just about coding, when this is far more than a “coding event” ‐ it’s a business event.” This project impacts virtually every business process and system in health plans, provider facilities, clearinghouses, and vendors. The breadth and depth of this project means that the risks for the entire value chain are enormous. Jimmy Lewis, HomeTown Health CEO, when addressing over 40 hospital executives this month, urges them that “at the executive level, THIS is the critical one that can close a hospital’s doors, and we want hospitals to be aware of the need to be prepared. Most hospitals have done a pretty good job of getting coders ready, but it’s about the other parts of the system that includes physicians- both employed and independent, and the payers and every part of the claims system thereafter.”

As the October 1 deadline approaches, HomeTown Health conducted a series of surveys to measure the preparedness of their hospitals and community physician practices. These surveys included rural physician practices and over 50 rural hospitals. The survey results show only 37% of the 50 participating hospitals reporting that they were on track towards a successful implementation and less than 50% of rural hospital physicians educated and prepared to use the new ICD-10 codes. After reviewing the results, HomeTown Health CEO and rural hospital advocate Jimmy Lewis noted, “We fear that the ICD-10 program, not properly tended, can create cash disruption of the highest order.”

To address many of these concerns, HomeTown Health will be rolling out a “100 Day Countdown” to ICD-10 on June 17th for physician practices and hospitals.

“A general fear among economists is that hospitals and physicians are not as prepared as they think. Increased payment delays, worsened denial rates, and more audit losses will dramatically upset revenue cycle and cash flow,” notes Dr. Dunnick. With the 100 day countdown approaching, the issue now is that “physicians need time to learn, and learning requires time to practice what has been learned. We are running out of time.” he said.

During the final 100 days, HomeTown will be leading participants through a final week-by-week “countdown review” of their preparation efforts. Kathy Whitmire, Managing Director for HomeTown Health, said “We believe there is no such thing as being overly prepared when it comes to ICD-10. At the very least, a review of an ICD-10 checklist can result in an organization verifying they are prepared in every area of their operation now, even if they have been preparing for years. It is not too late for facilities who are ready to commit to getting coders, physicians and staff the tools and education necessary to reduce the potential negative consequences of the transition.”

HomeTown Health urges providers not currently involved to join the “100 Day Countdown to ICD-10” program. Kathy Whitmire urges hospital leadership to do whatever it takes these last 100 days to focus on the ICD-10 transition: “If our hospitals and physicians are not ready, it could mean losing rural hospitals or rural providers that rural communities just cannot afford to lose.”

To learn more about HomeTown Health and the 100 Day Countdown to ICD-10 offered through HTHU its online healthcare university, please go to http://www.hthu.net/100days. For more information on the HomeTown Health organization, visit http://www.hometownhealthonline.com.

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Meghan Williams
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