“Wow” is an appropriate exclamation as I reflect on the enthusiasm, energy and sincere admiration among colleagues at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Assembly on Education (AOE) I attended in late July. I have attended the symposium for the past three years and this year was the best by far, with more than 400 educators from around the globe participating! For those of you unfamiliar with the event, the symposium is intended for faculty development and to innovate in health information management (HIM) education. During the sessions that span a five-day period, educators have the opportunity to learn new and emerging curriculum content, such as ICD-10, data usage and mapping; to network with AHIMA presidents; to have the opportunity to achieve leadership development; to participate in a three-hour ICD-10 academic workshop; and to be involved in the organization’s Vision 2012 roadmap.¹

I’ve always been a huge proponent for higher education, and it was with great pleasure that I learned of one of AHIMA’s initiatives: Reality 2016. Reality 2016 promotes higher education, specifically graduate degrees, and is expected to represent the future for HIM education. The initiative also provides a pathway for more sophisticated job opportunities for the HIM professional.  Though Reality 2016 is in its early stages, it already is becoming clear that earning a master’s degree can open many doors and shed light on new achievable opportunities that could not come to fruition with a lesser degree; I know this firsthand because it did for me!

Attending the symposium as an exhibitor is always interesting, as you have the opportunity to network with HIM professionals from across the country. Specifically, I was very interested to learn if the proposed delay in ICD-10 implementation affected curriculums across the spectrum, for associate and bachelor’s degrees alike.

“The worst is the uncertainty of ICD-10; many of us focused our education on ICD-10 thinking and believing that ICD-10 would be the code set utilized once students graduated,” one attendee said. “With the proposed delay announcement, many of us had to go back and build in ICD-9 into our curriculum.”

Most educators, from what I gathered among the symposium’s attendees, continue to include both ICD-9 and ICD-10 as part of their course curricula, as ICD-9 use will continue post-ICD-10 implementation. Of course, a few did state that they had not started ICD-10 education as part of the course curricula. This finding was a bit alarming in light of the recent announcement by AHIMA’s certifying commission.

For the most part, educators communicated that their underlying concern was that the delay in implementation has been very stressful for students and not good for learning.

“Our existing students have a lot of angst, post-announcement, particularly (regarding) workforce entry,” one such educator said.

Now, reread that quote and reflect: learning that our future leaders are fearful they will not have jobs post-graduation is just plain sad!

AHIMA’s message to educators regarding the implementation delay was announced as I broadcasted live on ICD10Monitor’s Talk-Ten-Tuesday. I had the great pleasure of sharing that message firsthand on the podcast, which was held on Tuesday, July 24. The Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM) also announced that it plans to communicate with educators within 30 days of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ final rule on the ICD-10 implementation date.² The communiqué will address ICD-10 CEU requirements and the launch date for ICD-10-compliant exams.

The final ICD-10 compliance exam launch timelines are as follows, with all dependent on the date of the final rule:

  • RHIA, RHIT, CCS, CCS-P and CCA will launch as ICD-10-compliant exams six months prior to the final rule.
  • CDIP will launch as ICD-10-compliant exams three months prior to the final rule.
  • CHDA and CHPS will launch as ICD-10-compliant exams three months after the final rule.

As an example, if the final rule states that the ICD-10 implementation date is Oct. 1, 2014, the following timeline would exist:

  • RHIA, RHIT, CCS, CCS-P and CCA would launch as ICD-10-compliant on April 1, 2014.
  • CDIP would launch as ICD-10-compliant on July 1, 2014.
  • CHDA and CHPS would launch as ICD-10-compliant on Jan. 1, 2015.

Please note that I do not have any inside intelligence on the date of ICD-10 implementation, and the above is simply an example provided by CCHIIM. The announcement is intended to assist educators to prepare students to take the certification exams.

While I was hoping to learn if AHIMA had any breaking news from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) or clues that might give us any indication of the implementation date, I unfortunately do not have anything earth-shattering to share. However, again, I did want to share my excitement and admiration for the professionals who attended AOE this year and to stress to all of you that even with the potential delay announcement, all of us need to be prepared for ICD-10 – whether from an educational, clinical, billing or financial perspective. If our leaders of tomorrow need to be “in the know” regarding ICD-10, just months prior to the implementation date, shouldn’t you?

About the Author

Maria T. Bounos, RN, MPM, CPC-H, is the Business Development Manager for Regulatory and Reimbursement software solutions for Wolters Kluwer.  Maria began her career at Wolters Kluwer as a product manager, responsible for product development, maintenance, enhancements and business development and now solely focuses on business development.  She has more than twenty years of experience in healthcare including nursing, coding, healthcare consulting, and software solutions.

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¹AHIMA Assembly on Education 2012, http://www.ahima.org/Events/EventCalendar/Event.aspx?Id=876c1e39-5818-452e-b360-6392ab52ef43

²CCHIIM communiqué, CCHIIM announcement about the delay in ICD-10, July 24, 2012 Assembly on Education

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