New Standardized Code Set to Be Implemented in October Despite Frequent Delays

icdbillAfter four years of delays, the American Hospital Association (AHA) and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) insist on keeping their timeline intact for the implementation of the new ICD-10 billing systems for doctors and hospitals to use across the country.

Roll Call reports that the two medical industry organizations want to keep the deadline for the switch on October 1st of this year. Originally set in October 2011, the switch has been pushed three times to the first of October 2013, 2014, and 2015, respectively.

The ICD system, which stands for the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, is a medical classification code created by the World Health Organization meant to be used by the international community. The upcoming update will be the 10th of its kind, the last one was implemented in 1978.

The update, however, is not without its detractors. Most of the opposition to the implementation stems from the claim that the code is simply too large. Though few medical professionals are opposed to the update outright, many doctors and medical administrators are skeptical that the implementation will happen in time after three failed deadlines.

Dr. Willian Jefferson Terry of the American Urological Association, for example, testified in Congress in February that the current ICD-9 system has approximately 13,000 codes whereas ICD-10 has 68,000 — more than five times the original amount. At the same House hearing, Senior Vice President of 3M Health Information Systems, Inc. Richard Averill believes virtually no doctor will use or need all of these codes and will instead rely on a relative handful.

To illustrate his point, Averill compared ICD-10 to the English dictionary. Containing more than 470,000 words according to him, the English language is simply too massive for any one person to use all of its words. Instead, English speakers only use a portion of them (take that Samuel Johnson).

Regardless, the panelists at the hearing noted that to prepare for the transition, medical technology companies have been releasing web and computer apps containing the code.

“If you wanted to really splurge, there is one for $1.99 that will give you a few bells and whistles on your iPhone to look up a code,” Averill said. “If you take that technology, in a few seconds you could look up almost any ICD-10 code.”

The apps come to no surprise considering the increasing reliance on electronic data in the medical field. It is estimated, for example, that 70% of medical providers receive at least some payments electronically.

Still, given the frequent annual delays, many in the medical field remain dubious about the chances of this year’s deadline being met.

“I don’t think anyone who has lived through all of the other delays could possibly say there’s no chance, particularly after what happened last year,” said healthcare tech company Athenahealth spokesman Dan Haley. “What I have been saying internally is that last year they got it to the 10-yard line and this year it seems like it’s on the one. It seems almost certain.”