3 Best Practices for Getting Physicians on Board With ICD-10 Implementation

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As the deadline for ICD-10 conversion approaches, providers face a variety of potential challenges and concerns, from clinical documentation improvement to the transition's impact on productivity.

DoctorAmong those possible trouble spots, however, getting physicians on board with preparation efforts stands out. Last month, brand strategy and marketing execution firm Aloft Group released a study involving nearly 200 healthcare providers, 75 percent of which were community hospitals. Of the providers surveyed, 60 percent cited physician buy-in as a conversion obstacle.

Terrance Govender, MD, director of healthcare at Navigant Consulting, echoes the study's findings. "The main challenge that organizations will see or face is buy-in and being able to present the value of ICD-10 to physicians," he says.

Based on his experience helping providers prepare for the switch to ICD-10 this October, Dr. Govender offered these three tips getting physicians engaged in efforts related to the transition.

1. Send the right message. Many physicians have only learned about ICD-10 through media coverage focusing on the significant increase in codes and the potential drop in productivity, Dr. Govender says. For providers looking to get physicians on board with the new system, he says it's crucial to communicate the value of ICD-10, especially as the healthcare system focuses increasingly on improving quality and cutting costs.

"We're being scrutinized…the types of patients we're seeing, how sick these patients are, how many resources we use," Dr. Govender says. "The way the healthcare encounter is represented by ICD-9 is not granular enough. ICD-10 allows us to be paid more appropriately, it allows us to bill for the use of modern technology and associated procedures, and it also allows us to present a true reflection of the severity of illness of the patients that we're seeing."

It's also crucial to explain to physicians the increase in codes shouldn't worry them, since it's unlikely they will have to deal with the full range of diagnoses, he says. For instance, an orthopedic surgeon won't need to know how to document snake bites. "They don't need to learn how to become coders," Dr. Govender says. "They just need to know how to document their common diagnoses on a day-to-day basis in a manner specific enough to support the ICD-10 code set."

2. Select a physician adviser. The foundation of physician buy-in and education concerning ICD-10 is a carefully selected, well-trained physician adviser who can communicate the value of the new system, according to Dr. Govender. This adviser serves as the voice of the physicians in contexts such as CDI meetings and ICD-10 steering committee meetings. The adviser must also have a good reputation with the medical staff and have a solid understanding of the business side of healthcare.

The physician adviser must also be appropriately trained in ICD-10 and understand his or her part in the preparation process. "An adviser needs to be very clear with his or her role," Dr. Govender says.

3. Never stop spreading the word. Once a healthcare organization has selected and trained its physician adviser, the next step is ensuring continued communication about ICD-10 to physicians. Given the proximity of the transition deadline, many providers have probably already implemented a strategy for raising awareness. However, Dr. Govender says it's important to keep actively promoting awareness all the way up until the transition date, given that people's level of interest and willingness to learn will rise as the deadline draws closer.

"The awareness strategy never stops," he says. "It's a continuous process."

More Articles on ICD-10:
AAPC: 3 Tips on Selecting Proper ICD-10 Codes  
5 Notable Surveys on ICD-10 Readiness  
AMA: ICD-10 Impact Assessment Checklist

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