Rich Rogers is vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Health First in Rockledge Florida. In his guest post here on Healthcare-Exchange he discusses some of the lesser known impacts ICD-10 will have on healthcare organizations.

While we’re all trying to demonstrate meaningful use and achieve financial incentives, ICD-10 is still a major regulatory issue that hospitals and health systems have to prepare to support. For providers, ICD-10 is the equivalent of switching the entire U.S. to the metric system, impacting every part of our lives from footwear to the gas pump to baking ingredients. ICD-10 will change healthcare organizations not only in how they will secure revenue, but also in how they operate across every aspect of their business.

In other countries that have adopted more complex coding protocols we’ve seen coding productivity decrease significantly – for example Canada saw coding productivity losses of 10 to 50 percent, while Australia saw a productivity loss of 25 percent – increasing the demand for experienced coding teams to make the transition smoothly. In the U.S., ICD-10 will require a complete relearning of what coders know, and in our facility like many others, many experienced coders plan to retire instead of learn a new language. Add to this the fact that we already aren’t graduating enough inpatient coders from our universities to meet the current demand, and you’re tripling coder demand issues for healthcare organizations here in the U.S.

In addition, physicians will need to be much more specific when documenting patient care to comply with ICD-10, but right now there is no incentive for them to do that. We’ll need to invest time and resources into educating them how to document properly under the new requirements and clearly communicate how their coding impacts revenue and reimbursement at the organization – more easily said than done in a world where their time is more precious than gold. Finally, if hospitals and health systems don’t prepare for ICD-10 now and postpone staff training, the potential backlog of coding inconsistencies will have tremendous impact on the organization’s cash flow problems.

For all the above reasons – and because we know the impact failing to prepare for ICD-10 will have on our bottom line – at Health First, we’re making changes now for the conversion. At the top of our list: Implementing a computer-assisted coding (CAC) solution to maintain our current coding staff and support ICD-10 without the need to hire another 50 coders. Even under ICD-9, the return has been immediate, and CAC is already having a real impact on an increase to our hospital Case Mix.

From the multiple IT systems each of us has in place that will need to upgrade, to the physician and coding of documentation in those systems, we all need to relearn what we previously knew about patient medical records under ICD-10. Regardless of the deadline, we need to prepare for the inevitable and can all benefit from the efficiencies gained from making changes now so we are ready. Whether measured in miles or kilometers, as an industry we need to move faster on this.

Rich Rogers