Taking a Custom Approach: Best Practices for Effective ICD-10 Staff Training

With less than nine months left until the transition to ICD-10, it's crucial that healthcare providers have a solid execution strategy in place.

DoctorStaff training is a significant part of that strategy, according to a poll conducted by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. Twenty-nine percent of health plans and healthcare providers polled from October to December 2013 identified training and information sessions about ICD-10 as the most critical factor in ensuring successful change management. Furthermore, 37 percent said educating staff is the biggest clinical documentation improvement challenge they face.

Hospitals and health systems should make employee training a priority, says Lori Jaeger, health information management analyst and ICD-10 and recovery audit contractor coordinator at Great River Medical Center in West Burlington, Iowa.

"Don't keep putting it off," she says. "You need to keep it at the forefront. Make sure your staff realizes how important it is. We have physicians who have said to us, 'Well, that doesn't happen until next year, and they're going to postpone it anyway.' You can't count on that."

Ms. Jaeger and Michelle Leavitt, director of courseware and product strategy at talent management software provider HealthcareSource, both say providers should consider their staff members' needs while crafting training programs.

The most important factor for providers to keep in mind is not to take a "one-size-fits-all" approach to ICD-10 training for all employees, according to Ms. Leavitt.

"There are a lot of different types of staff that need to be educated: coders and billers, IT staff, doctors," she says. "Each one of those groups is going to need a different education plan."

Because developing custom content for physicians and coders can be complicated, Ms. Leavitt says providers can search for ready-made training for staff members in those roles specifically. For more broad-based education with the aim of giving everyone in the organization an idea of what ICD-10 means, she recommends looking at customizing education a bit more to include details specific to the organization such as details about payers the hospital contracts with or technology the organization is using.

In order to tailor training programs, she says healthcare organizations should conduct an assessment of their employees' knowledge. Ms. Jaeger says that's the first thing Great River Medical Center did as part of the ICD-10 staff training process. The hospital then contracted with a local community college to offer a medical terminology class for coders, registration staff and medical assistants.

"We developed a spreadsheet of all the services [staff] we have in the hospital that would need to be trained," Ms. Jaeger says. "From that, we developed a level of training that they would need. Obviously, a lot of our staff just need basic knowledge. People like billers and coders need to have an in-depth understanding."

Additionally, she says the hospital board and administrative staff are taking part in an ICD-10 bootcamp. Getting everyone on board helps the education and preparation effort. "Make sure you have buy-in from everybody, especially the administration," she says.

Furthermore, the Great River has taken into account employees' different learning styles along with their varying knowledge and required level of ICD-10 competence. Ms. Jaeger says they chose training materials that allow staff members to absorb the information by either reading or listening to it.

"We knew it was addressing the majority of our staff's preferences for their training," she says. "If we had tried to hand everybody a packet and said, 'Here, read this,' it wouldn't have worked."

Ultimately, with the months counting down until the transition, Ms. Leavitt says the bottom line is hospitals and health systems need to act now. Those that find themselves in a time crunch can still find ready-made programs if there's no time for customization and can still make smart decisions about how they deliver education to their employees.

"Do something," she says. "If you haven't done anything yet, it's time to stop waiting and get going."

More Articles on ICD-10:
MGMA: Only 10% Physician Practices Ready for ICD-10
4 Lessons for ICD-10 Readiness
Coding Crunch: 7 ICD-10 Lessons From Cedars-Sinai

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