How to Use Your EHR to Get Your Patients and Your Practice through ICD-10

ICD-10 Oct. 1 Deadline e-hrWhile preoccupation with ICD-10 will eventually give way to the next big deadline-driven change in healthcare, value-based reimbursement, right now it’s one of two high priorities for the busy ambulatory practice. The other? Patient satisfaction. And many practices are rightfully worried about how ICD-10’s expected slowdown to operations will impact patient care. There’s at least one vehicle that can play a starring role in mitigating any fallout—the practice’s EHR system. With the right testing and training, plus help from some internal EHR features that speed up ICD-10 coding work, practices can use their EHRs to get a handle on one of the biggest changes to happen in healthcare in decades. Paired with tools that automate patient scheduling and intake, advanced EHR functionality might even help practices come out ahead of where they were prior to ICD-10. Testing and training: Your keys to catching up with ICD-10’s learning curve: If there is one piece of advice to heed about the ICD-10 conversion, it’s this: don’t skimp on training. It will do more than anything else to keep practices from getting caught off guard by ICD-10’s impact and exponential increase in codes. An EHR that is updated and ready for ICD-10 should include test-and-train capabilities that practices would be wise to use every day, until everyone is confident they are properly coding these new diagnoses. Specifically, EHRs with strong clearinghouse partnerships will have built in testing features that enable practices to run sample claims through the systems, without actually sending the claims to a payer. Alerts are then generated to notify if the claim would—or wouldn’t—have been accepted. In the event of denial, the reason is clearly highlighted and explained. Meanwhile, other functions and features within certain EHRs guide users in selecting the correct ICD-10 code for a particular diagnostic category. One of the most helpful can be a robust search tool to look up codes by diagnosis keyword, ICD-9 or ICD-10 codes, which in turn generate the matching ICD-10 results. Using such a tool can be a part of daily training, as well. An advanced EHR solution might even include automated mapping to view ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes side-by-side. Offset operational slowdowns with new patient conveniences: There’s no way around it--with the entrance of ICD-10, productivity is likely to decrease across the board in practices as physicians take more time to document the encounter and interventions, and coders travel up a steep learning curve. In other words, this is an excellent time to introduce some new conveniences to patients that will placate or even delight them during this bumpy transition. One of the simplest strategies to improve patient satisfaction: using an EHR’s patient portal as an online scheduling tool that patients can use to set their own appointments. Traditionally patients have to call the practice to get an appointment made—and very often end up on hold or “communicating” with a voice recording. Once they get through to actually schedule an appointment, it can be another lengthy process to nail down a time and day that work. By contrast, self-scheduling via the patient portal is very much in line with how people are already making their own airline and car rental reservations online, and a host of other transactions. It’s faster and far more convenient for the patient. Another powerful tool for patient satisfaction: automated patient intake dashboards. An advanced EHR might offer this as a feature or an integration with a separate dashboard tool. Either way, these dashboards whittle away unnecessary wait times. They show the live progression of a patient appointment from check-in to check-out. A timer sends alerts when thresholds have been crossed; for example, the patient has waited in the exam room for more than 10 minutes or a room is ready to be cleaned and readied for the next patient. Make change work for the better: ICD-10 brings with it a level of coding specificity that’s bound to alter almost every aspect of coding a patient encounter and submitting it for payment. No one will be able to learn this “on the fly”—both doctors and coders face a learning curve. As with most new endeavors, however, preparation and a little innovation can pave an easier path for everyone.