In October of last year, the deadline for ICD-10 implementation finally arrived. Naturally, this is still on the top of the mind for health information management (HIM) Directors throughout the health care sector. As this blog covered previously, the first few months of ICD-10 went pretty smoothly – much more smoothly than many industry observers previously expected. At the same time, though, that blog emphasized that there there were still a number of issues that health care providers will need to reckon with as they strive to achieve success with ICD-10 in the new year. One of the most significant challenges was the fact that many care providers’ staff had not yet received ICD-10 training as of the end of 2015.

“Many care providers’ staff had not yet received ICD-10 training as of the end of 2015.”

Recently, Journal of AHIMA contributor Charlie Saponaro highlighted this issue. Specifically, the writer examined how HIM Directors will need to reconsider their outsourcing strategies in the context of ICD-10. Saponaro pointed out that “the upward trend toward outsourcing doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon,” and that new approaches will be necessary for HIM Directors to gain the maximum value from these relationships.

New Strategies for the New Year
Saponaro offered five strategies for HIM Directors looking to build better relationships with their outsourcing partners now that ICD-10 is in full effect.

For one thing, he emphasized the need for health care providers to improve their communication with outsourcing partners. The writer noted that ICD-10 requires a greater degree of collaboration than its predecessor, ICD-9. This should include daily productivity reports, quick notifications for coder complications and regular, frequent feedback detailing claims denial processes.

Another key strategy recommendation, according to Saponaro, is to reconsider the viability of long-term contracts. He noted that outsource vendors experienced a major surge in long-term contract requests in the months leading up to ICD-10 implementation, and with good reason: These commitments helped ensure that health care providers could keep their heads above water in the event that that ICD-10 caused a downturn in productivity. Even though ICD-10 is now here and is a known quantity, it is still in many HIM Directors’ best interests to look for long-term contracts. At the same time, though, the writer noted that these decision-makers should be wary of contracts that have long cancelation clauses built into them – it is far better to have the option of severing these relationships quickly if the outsource vendor comes up short.

Relationship Growth
One final strategy goal for HIM Directors looking to outsource ICD-10 assistance is to grow these relationships.

Improving high-quality relationships should be an outsourcing priority.
Improving high-quality relationships should be an outsourcing priority.

“Those happy with their current HIM outsource vendor’s performance that need additional help could also evaluate whether to add services when auditing their vendor relationship,” Saponaro asserted.

This may seem like an obvious approach, but it’s not a given among health care decision-makers. Yet if a care provider has seen positive results from its relationship with an outsource vendor, then there is really no reason not to consider expanding into new areas.

Ultimately, the writer recommended that health care providers include their core HIM vendors as members of their in-house teams.

“Given the rising demands in the market, professional courtesy and respect on both sides of the outsourcing equation ensure vendors will go the extra mile when needed – and be committed to keeping your organization within their core customer fold,” Saponaro wrote.

Outsourcing health IT can enable care providers to continue to improve their performance and adhere to ICD-10 while full-time on-site/remote staff become increasingly familiar with these still-new requirements and processes.