Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems have been around for quite some time, but looking forward to 2013 and beyond, these systems are now providing the medical community with much needed assistance in every aspect of running a medical practice. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) has provided incentives for practices who can demonstrate meaningful use of their EHR systems, yet other changes on the horizon promise changes that may keep practices on their toes for the near future.
Beginning in 2013, the ICD-10 coding system will replace the ICD-9 system. ICD-10 has been in place around the world for a number of years and institutes a significant number of new codes as well as new coding that will require EHR systems to be updated. In addition to new coding, many practices will also be finalizing their adoption of Stage 2 incentives that provide significant reimbursement for practices that are able to demonstrate meaningful use of their EHR. Practices will be under pressure to adjust documentation methods as well as institute standards for documentation that will stand the test of government review if necessary.
In 1993, the World Health Organization detailed the ICD-10 coding system to replace ICD-9, which was rapidly running out of codes. ICD-10 accommodates more accurate codes and newly created diagnoses. The new coding structure allowed for the expansion of the number of codes from under 20,000 in the older system to currently over 70,000 with room for more. Though the implementation date is set for late 2014, your practice needs to prepare now to allow for adequate training and system configuration.
Many systems in place are already configured to implement ICD-10 coding and newly purchased systems should have ICD-10 capability. In addition to assuring that your EHR system is adequately prepared, it may also be necessary to train your staff on the changes so they may be prepared as well. Familiarity sometimes breeds complacency. ICD-10 coding is significantly more detailed than ICD-9. Medical staff, clinicians and physicians may need to document encounters more thoroughly to be compliant with new requirements.
Stage 2 Incentives
The deadline to register eligible practices for the financial benefits detailed in the HITECH Act was 2012. Whether your practice was eligible to participate under Medicare or Medicaid, the benefit is substantial. Medicare eligible practices can qualify for up to $44,000, while Medicaid eligible practices can receive over $63,000 in financial incentives. While the money appropriated under the congressional bill is not meant for actual reimbursement of an EHR system, practices can earn the money by demonstrating “meaningful use” of their systems as detailed under the Medicare final Stage 2 guidelines. This includes 17 core assessments that must be confirmed. The Office of the Inspector General may also verify that practices are meeting objectives and penalize practices that are falsifying attestation to the requirements. This raises the stakes for your practice to properly implement a course of action that assures adherence to the guidelines.
2013 will be a year for preparation. Whether your practice is converting from paper charting, antiquated health records systems or streamlining a new electronic health records systems, 2013 is your time for preparation. Not only are the financial benefits available as payouts including in the HITECH Act, but they are also available in streamlining practice operations, lowering operational costs and increasing reimbursement.