HHS Delays ICD-10 Implementation

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The pleas of the American Medical Association and other physician groups have not fallen on deaf ears. Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen G. Sebelius announced that HHS will postpone the deadline for health care providers' compliance with International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnosis and procedure codes (ICD-10).

The AMA had argued that with physicians already taxed with so many other health care changes — including meeting meaningful use criteria for EHR systems — this was a terrible time to insist on a hard deadline for ICD-10 implementation.

Sebelius' statement did not set a new compliance deadline. Instead, this will be worked out in a future round of regulation writing.

The October 2013 deadline was itself an extension of a previous deadline, and although many physicians will cheer the delay, some have expressed concern. Earlier this week, Wendy Whittington, MD, who is CMO of Anthelio Healthcare Solutions, pointed out in the publication Government Health IT that there are some downsides to the delay. It hampers organizations' ability to plan when deadlines are moved, and it complicates gathering of comparative effectiveness research.

"One of the changes in ICD-10 is to better track follow-up care. It is important to healthcare funders and the public to know what specific follow-up care is being given for a particular event or illness," she said in a Q &A. "Does the physician actually make changes to the care plan? Or is the physician asking the patient to return just to check in?"

For radiology, it could better track how physicians who order diagnostic imaging tests change their care plan based on the results of that testing.