The Pros and Cons of Swift Versus Prolonged Action

Several Months Out, Should ICD-10 Be Delayed or Replaced With SNOMED-CT?

By Ken Bradley

In the remaining months before ICD-10’s scheduled transition date, some of healthcare’s largest and most influential associations are on opposite sides of the table. Should we delay another year or two, should we get it over with, or should we replace it altogether with another idea?

If you’ve ever pondered filing taxes on time or getting an extension – or helped your child decide whether to pull a baby tooth or walk around in discomfort – you’re familiar with this dilemma. Granted, ICD-10 is a bit more complex than losing a baby tooth (and hopefully, more complex than filing your tax return), but it’s the same underlying concept: whether to grit your teeth and get it over with quickly, or ease into it with more preparation…but endure a longer process.

Some have advocated scrapping the move to ICD-10 altogether and suggested using SNOMED-CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine-Clinical Technology). SNOMED-CT is a clinical terminology containing over 311,000 clinical concepts – dwarfing ICD-10′s nearly 70,000 codes. Should this common language, which will help EHRs speak the same language and therefore further Meaningful Use’s (MU) goal of collaborative care, be used to support both the EHR’s need for handling granular clinical concepts and the revenue cycle’s need for a classification system? In one way SNOMED and ICD-10 are alike: both are much more detailed than anything in use today, but whether or not SNOMED’s much greater level of granularity would work similarly to how diagnosis codes are used for reporting is a largely unanswered question.

The debates about delay will likely continue even with a new official ICD-10 implementation date, leaving practices to question whether or not policy makers will seriously consider whether to stay the current course or do nothing. With the ICD-10 implementation date now only a mere nine months away, the industry must rally as never before to either achieve a difficult October 1, 2015 implementation challenge or pause and consider other approaches: regardless of approach, consensus is needed quickly.

Because of strategic initiatives such as MU, practice managers may not be devoting enough time and resources to properly prepare. During these final nine months before the October 2015 transition date, it’s important to get everyone – doctors, nurses, front-office and back-office staff – involved in preparation and ready to go. Resources such as Engaging Physicians in ICD-10: Strategies for Practice Administrators can help get your entire team ready. Even if ICD-10 may be delayed again, it’ll be good to know your entire team is ready to jump in, rip off the band-aid or pull the baby tooth – and do what’s best for your practice.
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