Radiology is inherently more specialized and has far fewer potential codes than a trauma center or primary care practice, but the added complexity of ICD-10 and its implementation still presents a number of challenges and obstacles that must be overcome.
Determining the Challenges You Face
Every area affected by the upcoming change to ICD-10 has its own unique issues. However, one of the most important tasks is to figure out what challenges your practice in particular faces. With the compliance date moved back by a year, there is somewhat more room, but an incomplete understanding of the system can have major effects on profitability and fixing any problems that arise. For that reason, radiology groups should strive for minimal delays in reaching the assessment section of the overall implementation plan.
However, radiologists also face a challenge that some practices do not. Any radiology group affiliated directly with a hospital must also be aware of how ICD-10's added complexity requires getting additional information from patients. All of the hospital's staff members must be aware of whose job it is to obtain information and where this information must be sent. Failure to do so effectively can have consequences like patients constantly having to answer the same questions, increased paperwork as staff tries to sort the relevant information, and decreased quality of care due to the extra effort needed.
If your radiology group is directly associated with a hospital, you should already have access to their plans. If you are not affiliated with a hospital, it will still be beneficial to contact whatever practice, hospital, or group you do the most business with; if you accept patients from many different care providers, each provider may have a somewhat different method of gathering information. It will be extremely beneficial to know not just your plans, but the plans of everyone else you work with.
The Things Outside Your Control
Even if your practice is ready for the ICD-10 implementation, your billing company may not be. Alternately, the correct software may not be available, and when it is, it will have to be installed immediately. Due to the nature of technology, there may be bugs or glitches in the system that will require tech support to examine your computers and figure out what's wrong. However, radiology groups do have an advantage over other medical practices in that most patients do not require immediate treatment. Because of this, radiology groups have the option to close down services for part of the day in order to ensure that the new software is functioning correctly and all staff are absolutely ready.
Depending on the nature of your practice and your affiliation with others, it may be necessary to obtain permission before shutting down the lab, but the option should be seriously considered. If there are no problems, the lab can reopen early, while if problems do arise, you will not be stuck in a situation in which previous coding will no longer be accepted but new codes cannot yet be made. Depending on the number of workers at the lab or with tech support, having some of them work overnight to install and test the software may or may not be a practical option.
The Bottom Line
Each radiology group should work to get through the implementation schedule as effectively as possible, not as quickly. There is no grace period allowed, so the earlier each practice starts getting ready, the better off they will be. Communicate effectively, allow for delays when planning your schedule, and be as familiar with ICD-10 as you are with ICD-9 when the date finally arrives.