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I admit it: I’m an Olympics fanatic. I can’t get enough of it, especially with three channels covering everything from table tennis to Dream Team basketball, almost 24–7. I admit something else: for the last year and a half I have lived, eaten and breathed ICD-10. So I can’t help but sit in my living room and make analogies about the Olympics and ICD-10 (I know, get a life, right?)

But seriously, as the London games continue to unfold I have been thinking about our healthcare practices and hospitals – and I wondered, what kind of ICD-10 athletes would these Olympic athletes make during the next two years?

Take Michael Phelps, for example. Certainly one of the most decorated Olympians of modern times, now actually THE most decorated athlete of the Summer Olympic Games. What kind of ICD-10 athlete would he be? Maybe he’s one of those early implementers who flew through the first stages of preparation, but then, because of the government’s interference and too much other stuff on his plate, lost focus and commitment. When the final push came, was he unable to achieve all that he certainly could have, because his final preparation was too little and too late to count?

Or how about the U.S. women’s cycling team during the 140-kilometer road race? In the final few kilometers of that three-and-a-half hour endurance contest, world-class sprinter and almost certain medalist Shelley Olds blew a tire and teammate Kristin Armstrong took a nasty spill on a rain-slicked road. But the American women rallied and pushed each other for our best finish since Barcelona in 1992. The ICD-10 analogy is this: the healthcare practice or hospital that chugs along, steadily adhering to its plan and preparation, can pick itself up, blooded but unbowed, and still drive toward the finish line when unforeseen disaster strikes toward the end of the transition period.

Then there’s Columbian soccer player Lady Andrade. Ooh, you don’t want to be her. Frustrated by the stellar play of the American captain, she sucker-punched Abby Wambach, giving her a black eye and earning herself a two-match suspension. How did Abby respond? Soon after getting knocked to the turf, she put the ball in the back of the net. Which one of those women do you want to be? The one who’s exasperated and in denial, who lashes out at the inevitable ICD-10 implementation because of a lack of understanding, preparation, and yes, discipline? Or the one who picks herself up despite the black eye and prevails when ICD-10 adversity is literally punching her in the face?

When it comes to ICD-10, here’s the Olympic athlete you want to be: the U.S.’s Kim Rhode. In skeet she shot an amazing 99 out of 100 targets, breaking the Olympic record to bring home the gold. For ICD-10, that would be picture-perfect preparation over the long haul of the ICD-10 transition. It would be concentration and focus on whatever ICD-10 objective is at hand at any given moment in time. And then, in step-by-step fashion, or clay pigeon by clay pigeon, it would be knocking all of those objectives out in order to achieve.

What do all successful athletes have in common? Long-term preparation. Teamwork. Commitment. To win gold medals in swimming, do you think Missy Franklin or Ryan Lochte woke up three months ago and said to themselves, “Hey! I better start training for London”? You know they achieved greatness because they started preparing years ago – they had a plan for success and stuck to it.

Implementing ICD-10 is like preparing for the 400-meter individual medley in swimming. There are four different tasks: butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle, each with its own unique preparation. Success comes when you can put all four disciplines together in one race. For ICD-10, our four disciplines are planning, people, technology and processes. Just as in the 400-meter IM, each takes its own preparation and commitment, all occurring at the same time. For ICD-10, while you perform your impact assessments and plan, you have to train your people, upgrade your technology and adapt your day-to-day work processes – all during an extended period of time.

For ICD-10, when the starting gun goes off on what we think will be Oct. 1, 2014, it all has to come together to achieve success. Don’t get caught unprepared when the time comes. ICD-10 is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and it takes longer than a few months to prepare. So start now, pull your own dream team together, and don’t give up when you get punched in the face or take a nasty spill. Your team is counting on you.

Of everyone I’ve seen perform at the Olympics so far, who would I want to be? It’s either James Bond (Daniel Craig) skydiving with the Queen or David Beckham driving that fast boat with the hot chick holding the Olympic flame. Hmm.

That’s a toss-up.

About the Author

Denny is the president of Complete Practice Resources, a healthcare education, consulting, and software company headquartered in Slidell, Louisiana. He formerly served as the CEO of a large, multi-specialty physician group, full service MSO. Denny has authored or co-authored numerous “common sense” practice management books and implementation manuals. He is an award winning, nationally known consultant, speaker, and educator bringing his expertise to making the complex “simple.” He currently serves on the editorial board of ICD10 Monitor. Educated at the United States Air Force Academy, Denny had a distinguished career as an Air Force pilot and has a long history of commitment to excellence and dedication to his clients’ success.

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