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When an organization brings us in to talk about ICD-10-CM, someone invariably asks why “how to register for and receive EHR government Incentive money” is part of the planned agenda. Well, for one thing, talking about accessing up to $63,750 per provider is fun. Everyone wants to hear about “free money.”

And, of course, a speedy, efficient EMR can ease the ICD-10 implementation. Automating data entry, documentation and coding simplifies the transition. We are clear about communicating that, at the end of the day, the responsibility for the success or failure of ICD-10 implementation rests squarely on providers’ shoulders. ICD-10-CM adds coding, documentation and work process complications to an already complex system.

EMR goes a long way toward mitigating these challenges. Whether you work with your EMR vendor to create “problem” or “pick” lists – intuitive chart templates that satisfy ICD-10’s voracious appetite for new and complete documentation elements – or whether you are working alone to create your own lists and templates, capturing these elements is made easier with the proper EMR setup.

These are good reasons to talk about the government EHR incentive program during an ICD-10 workshop. The BEST reason to talk about the program is simple: money (and free money, at that). The crystal ball (and those countries already using ICD-10) tells us we can expect to lose up to 40 percent of our productivity due to ICD-10. That makes sense when you consider the massive confusion introduced when you overhaul a mission-critical item. New language, new codes, training curves and habit changes surely equate to fewer patients seen.

Even CMS is recommending that practices cache a six-month operating capital “war chest” to deal with loss of productivity and revenue. Providers also are securing lines of credit or short-term loans to help weather the storm. The EHR government incentives program can help. A CNP-led FQHC in rural Louisiana just received its second set of incentives checks; to date it has received more than $400,000. Seems like a good head start on an ICD-10 “emergency reserve.”

Setting up the protocols in your EMR makes the process to collect meaningful use data easy. Work with your regional extension center. Take the plunge. It’s free money. When times are lean in the fourth quarter of 2013, you’ll be glad you did.

About the Author

Dennis Flint is director of consulting and educational services for Complete Medical Solutions. Dennis formerly served as the CEO of a large, multi-specialty physician group, a full service MSO and was a certified professional coder through AAPC. He has authored or co-authored numerous “common sense” practice management books and implementation manuals. Educated at the United States Air Force Academy, he had a distinguished career as an Air Force pilot flying numerous secret and sensitive missions.

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