2014 Outlook On Health IT

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Hospital leaders and office-based physicians will face daunting Healthcare Information Technology stress tests in the coming year.

One test is underway for some, who have to meet stepped-up Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria for electronic health-record systems. For hospitals that had achieved Stage 1 meaningful use for two or three years under the program, the one-year Stage 2 window opened at the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2013.

For similarly positioned physicians and other eligible professionals, whose EHR incentive program runs on the calendar year, their challenge started Jan. 1, 2014. Each must meet 90 consecutive days of meaningful use at the Stage 2 level within their respective years.

But an even bigger test for hospitals and physicians will come Oct. 1 with the federally mandated nationwide conversion to the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes. The long-delayed ICD-10 codes will replace ICD-9 codes in use since 1979.

In December, the government proposed adding a third year to the Stage 2 window, pushing back the proposed start of Stage 3 until 2017. But the delay has no effect on providers required to step up to Stage 2 in 2014. Meanwhile, the feds have signaled no willingness to go along with demands to once again delay the ICD-10 conversion.

“The need to upgrade your systems hits right at the peak of getting ready for ICD-10,” said Russell Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. “There is still a lot of concern on the physician side for ICD-10 readiness. Do you really load up a physician with retaining all their codes at the same time you’re going to ask them to change their system? We’re just asking for some flexibility on timing.”

A recent survey report released by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange found that providers and health plans are “behind the curve” on ICD-10 readiness.

Some healthcare providers may have to make an IT triage decision this year. Branzell said if he were a CIO again, he would strive to meet both Stage 2 and ICD-10 targets. But if something had to give, he would let Stage 2 go. “We’ve already heard from some large organizations that have made the decision to delay Stage 2 because we have issues with ICD-10,” he said.

Article written by Joseph Conn

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