Some medical societies would make lousy students

Dec. 25, 2014

As an educator, I encountered countless explanations by my students for not handing in their assignments on time.

“I left it at home. I’ll bring it in tomorrow.”

“It was too confusing for me to do on my own. Will you explain it again?”

“My computer died. Can I get an extension?”

I never heard the infamous, “My dog ate my homework,” but many of the excuses posed to me during my 15-year teaching career were just as weak and unimaginative.

These memories of unmotivated, unfocused students came rushing back when I learned the Texas Medical Association (TMA), our nation’s largest state medical society for physicians, is asking its nearly 50,000 members to write Congress requesting another two-year delay to the implementation of ICD-10.

TMA President, Dr. Austin King, says in an open letter on the TMA website, “It’s imperative that you contact your representative today and explain how you cannot afford the cost and disruption of ICD-10 implementation to your business, especially now, when you are buried in myriad other bureaucratic burdens.”

Really? So if there weren’t “other bureaucratic burdens” on physicians, then ICD-10 would be implemented in a timely fashion and without objection? I doubt it. Considering that ICD-9 utilizes 13,000 diagnosis codes and ICD-10 possesses 68,000 codes, I have to call “nonsense.” The TMA President comes across as the stereotypical, slacker student in the back of the classroom trying to stage a revolt against his teacher.

“How’s this going to help any of us in real life? Do you know how much work we already have to do for [insert subject name]?”

These types of histrionics reveal a mindset that exists within too many healthcare organizations, and classrooms, across America. When faced with the opportunity to accept and transition new information into our lives, we instinctively spend our limited time and energies futilely resisting the inevitable: change. 

Rather than rolling up your sleeves to incorporate the more specific, often more relevant, codes of ICD-10 (nearly 30 years after their initial release), some want you to write to Congress demanding yet another extension.

Considering ICD-10’s history, chances are good that another delay may occur, but what good for our industry will come of it? Such a delay would push the implementation of ICD-10 back to 2017, the same year the World Health Organization is set to unveil its final version of ICD-11 codes. Many seem fine with the notion of staying behind a grade level while the rest of the class moves on. Even worse, based upon its current stance, it’s safe to assume that some healthcare organizations plan to work just as hard to push off ICD-11 as well. In the near future, won’t physicians still be “buried” in bureaucracy? Won’t the financial demands to implement ICD-11 be just as great as those associated with ICD-10?

Maybe a better question to ask is how will we be able to ensure the accuracy of hospital outcomes, performance reports and insurance payments with codes dating back to the 1970s?

Our new value-based care system cannot mature if we don’t value the basis of our care, which is precise documentation and clear communication. Unfortunately, it seems some medical societies will never spend the time needed to learn this important lesson.

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