News Feature | September 30, 2013

ICD-10 A Necessity For Improving Patient Care

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Greg Bengel

By Greg Bengel, contributing writer


ICD-10 implementation fear and worry notwithstanding, one provider reminds us that the new system is necessary for understanding and preventing diseases, thus improving care and reimbursements

In the midst of all the panic surrounding ICD-10 transition, it’s nice to find a story that puts the codification system into perspective and reminds providers why the switch is a good idea in the first place. One such story comes from EHR Intelligence, and is called, “ICD-10 will help physicians treat the ‘whole patient.’”

The article covers an opinion piece in General Surgery News, written by Lucian Newman III, MD, FACS. Its basic message, as EHR Intelligence summarizes, is that, “Using ICD-10 to drill down to the most specific symptoms and diagnoses will increase physician confidence in the ability to treat a patient as a whole.” As the focus in physician reimbursement shifts to quality of care, physicians must naturally work to deepen their understanding of diseases so as to improve their patient outcomes. ICD-10 will help physicians do this because it allows them to codify variables with much greater accuracy. Regardless of how physicians feel about reimbursement shifts and government mandates, Newman suggests that their advent makes ICD-10 a necessity.

The EHR Intelligence article further discusses how ICD-10 can control costs for physicians. “As healthcare becomes more capable of identifying and treating an increasing number of diseases, a focus on controlling costs is only natural, especially as populations age and live longer with more chronic diseases,” the article says. “ICD-10 can provide a better mechanism for describing the care provided to these patients, pinpoint the need for certain services better than its predecessor ICD-9, and create a more accurate system of reimbursements for physicians who are increasingly challenged by complex care needs and a slew of federal regulations.”

Rather than focusing solely on how to make money and get ahead, Newman rightly points to a more obvious benefit. In his opinion piece, Newman writes, “From our first days in medical school, we are taught to respect the human form and learn to understand the diseases that lead to its ultimate demise. We quickly realize that no single condition stands alone. Instead, each patient possesses an array of risk factors that affects the other conditions. We are challenged with treating the whole patient precisely because each disorder may affect another.” He later says, “There are many ways to criticize the move to ICD-10, but understanding that the ICD system was created to foster a better understanding of disease and death should be recognizable by all health care providers.”

This refreshing outlook does not change the fact that many providers are very much behind on ICD-10 implementation. As recently reported, only 7 percent of physicians are “very confident” that their EHR vendor will help them make a successful transition to the new system, and 27 percent are only “somewhat confident,” according to an athenahealth survey.