Goodbye 2015, Bring on 2016!

Doesn’t it seem that 2015 was a very long year, much longer than 365 days? As usual, I learned a lot and feel more competent in my job every day because of it. It was also a year of new phenomenon, not only personally but also professionally. Let’s take a look at a couple of the big changes for 2015.

First, of course, is ICD-10. We had plenty of warning and even at the last minute, there was a possibility that it wouldn’t materialize but here we are, three months in, and things are looking good. If you coded ICD-9, then you can code ICD-10. It’s not that much different. Sometimes there will be extra codes to use but each section of the coding book details the requirements and they’re easy to understand and follow. Thank you, CMS! Money is being paid on claims with ICD-10 codes on them. Before ICD-10 implementation, we had heard rumors that practices could go as long as six months with no income and a plan B should be in place to handle this. That didn’t seem to happen, at least as far as I can see. There were a few issues at first but they were easily ironed out and now the money is coming through without issue for the most part. What will happen when CMS stops accepting codes that are in the “family” of codes and demands a more specific one? I’m sure that they’ll try to hold that money for as long as they can and denials will come back on an EOB asking for a more detailed code. Whatever happens we will adapt and adopt whatever changes they present to keep the money coming in.

The second big change is Meaningful Use. We thought, until the first week of December, that this would be covering the whole year in Stage 2. Not at all! It’s now just a quarter and the last quarter will be the one that most will choose to attest. No surprise there. Who knew what you needed in January 2015 anyway? Using October through December will be the standard for 2015. Instead of 17 core measures and 3 Menu Set measure, now we have 10 total. That’s much more manageable. The measure that has created the most concern about is the number of patients using the portal. I’m still not sure what they expect you to do; drive to the patient’s house, get them logged into the website and print out something? Really? You certainly can’t make someone use it but you can collect emails and give them instructions. After that, it’s up to the patient. You would have no control. However, it was good to see the change that in now in effect. You now only have to have one patient log in and view their records. Easy enough. I’m not sure what they’ll require in 2016 but, for the time being, we’re safe. Most everyone can get one patient to connect. It looks like the rest of the measures are pretty easy and are done every day. They are the reasons why you got an EHR; sending electronic prescriptions, doing lab and radiology orders and receiving results, checking meds with a new patient when they come in. All of these are being done routinely. As far as public heath reporting; it looks like a lot of specialties don’t give immunizations or report to a cancer registry or anything like that so there are exemptions to be used for them.

All in all, 2015 was a year of change and with the ICD-10 and Meaningful Use, we’re moving into 2016 with our eyes wide open and a calmness that was lacking in 2015. Happy New Year to you all!

Kim Childress


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