ICD-10: Keep up the calm

Oct. 21, 2015 / By Rhonda Butler

Keep calm and carry on…that was the title of the first thing I ever wrote, in early 2010, about the hype surrounding ICD-10. Less than six months after the CMS final rule for implementation of ICD-10 on October 1, 2013, the engines of hysteria were already churning out alarmist rhetoric.

In a moment of nostalgia, I went looking for that article. Here are a couple of examples of ICD-10 sound bites that were popular in 2010, and my reaction to them.

There are too many codes. We have all heard this pronouncement made from various soapboxes over the years. Too many? Is this not the computer age? Who is it too many for? Are there organizations out there still paying armies of clerks to sit perched high on their stools day after day writing out long lists of ICD codes with their quill pens? When the naysayers google “ICD-10 implementation” and after 0.37 seconds it tells them there are 3,920,000 results, do they say, “That’s too many?”

ICD-10 is the perfect storm. This sounds awfully familiar. People said the same thing about Y2K. We were all led to expect that on December 31, 1999, at the stroke of the midnight, the electronic world as we know it could come crashing down—general systems failures, spectacular forms of chaos and mischief, rioting in the streets, the whole deal. But as you may remember, January 1 of 2000 was just another quiet, ordinary day on planet earth.

Amazing really, that we survived five years of that with our sanity (more or less) intact. Despite the tedious parading of irrelevant but entertaining ICD-10 codes, despite delays coming from arm twisting at the highest levels of government, and despite legislation demonizing something as banal and harmless as a classification system, we made it to October 2nd, and November 2nd is coming right up. Month by month, all of you out there who decided to get the job done can continue this excellent trend and get through the ICD-10 transition in reasonable shape.

I offer this last paragraph from five years ago as a celebration of what you all have made come true: ICD-10 was not the end of the world after all.

Yes, ICD-10 is coming. And yes, there is a lot of work to do. But it is not the end of the world as we know it. Getting work done well takes planning, attention to detail, persistence, cooperation. Sometimes finding reasons not to work is more appealing than doing work. People have been making mischief for ICD-10 implementation for a long time now, finding reasons not to get to work and proclaiming things that people should fear instead. This is human nature after all, and can be kind of entertaining for a while. But now that we have a date, and a bunch of deadlines to meet, we actually do need to stop playing around and get to work. There is nothing to fear, and all kinds of cool stuff to work on.

Keep calm and carry on.

Rhonda Butler is a senior clinical research analyst with 3M Health Information Systems.

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