Friday, October 1, 2010

ICD-10, EHRs Take Center Stage at AHIMA

Posted by Mark Brousseau

AHIMA's 82nd Annual Conference and Exhibit, held this week at the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, may not have featured "Earth-shattering new products" or "game-changing players," but it did have something that made exhibitors smile: better booth traffic.

"I can't say that I saw any new products at AHIMA," says exhibitor Greg Lusch (, ibml's ( business development manager for healthcare. But attendance at the event -- which draws coders, transcriptionists and other medical records professionals -- was noticeably higher than in recent years, Lusch adds, resulting in a steady stream of potential buyers visiting the Birmingham, Alabama-based company's booth. He attributes the increased buying interest to the "loosening economy" and strong demand for ICD-10 and electronic health records (EHR) solutions.

"There was a sense among the exhibitors that attendees had a little more money to spend," he says.

If the AHIMA conference is any indication, healthcare providers will spend a lot of that money on ICD-10 initiatives. In 2013, the U.S. healthcare system will transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 as the HIPAA mandated code set for medical symptoms and procedures. This code set is used for billing and health insurance reimbursement, as well as statistical analysis, clinical, epidemiological and quality reporting. As a result of this transition, Lusch notes that the number of diagnosis codes will swell from 13,000 to 68,000, while the number of procedure codes will soar from 3,000 to 87,000.

"ICD-10 was by far the hottest topic at AHIMA," Lusch says. "Many attendees were there to better understand how to deal with ICD-10; how to make the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, what tools and updates were available to help streamline the process, and, in many cases, to find third-party services to help them figure it all out. Clearly, this was a major area of focus for AHIMA attendees."

The other area of focus for many AHIMA attendees was the conversion to EHRs. Lusch notes that in addition to hospitals and large practices -- which have been showing increasing interest in EHR solutions at conferences throughout the year -- a number of service bureaus were at AHIMA sizing up the potential opportunity, looking for EHR solutions of their own, or offering conversion services. "There is no question that more service bureaus are jumping on the EHR bandwagon, offering to scan medical records on behalf of healthcare providers. They clearly believe there is a lot of scanning business out there."

Interestingly, Lusch noted that many of the large EHR solutions vendors did not exhibit at AHIMA.

Noticeably absent from most of the exhibit hall banter was any talk of health reform. That's not to say that it didn't come up during some sessions. But Lusch thinks AHIMA attendees were "too consumed" with the major tasks of ICD-10 and EHRs to focus on the uncertainties of reform.

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