A week ago, AHIMA's President Patty Thierry Sheridan and its Chief Executive Officer sent a strongly worded letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticizing the decision to delay. Among the points raised:
- The rule has been final since Jan. 16, 2009, after a 10-year effort by HHS and education campaigns to "let the public and the healthcare industry know that the United States was rapidly losing its ability to collect and use health information," for important initiatives on the horizon including "quality measurement, improved public health reporting, bio-surveillance, value-based purchasing and consumer health information."
- A switch date has already been postponed for two years from Oct. 1, 2011 to Oct. 1, 2013.
- A "large majority of the healthcare industry" has created new jobs, upgraded systems," and implemented electronic health record systems in preparation.
- "Those who want to stop ICD-10 implementation do not understand the classification systems, how they are used, and their role in U.S. healthcare beyond the current reimbursement system and how they can be used to improve practice, including in the offices of individual practitioners."
Bowman and her organization note some other troubling aspects of such a delay. Right now, there is a "code freeze" to allow a smooth transition, so no new codes are being added, she says. If there is a delay, will the freeze be lifted?
"Our members are concerned that the continued misuse of the ICD-9CM structure to accomodate codes will result in an inability to use data and also will continue the error rate caused by lack of specific codes."
And Bowman asks, how should academic code training programs respond, since they are already planning their expanded curricula for ICD-10's 2013 launch.