Despite an October 2013 deadline, now is the time for providers to begin ramping up preparations for the ICD-10 switch, a new report from healthcare research firm KLAS stresses. The report determines that less than 10 percent of providers have crossed the halfway point for the switch in terms of readiness, but a more alarming trend, according to report author Graham Triggs, is the lack of understanding by those providers about the financial repercussions involved.

“I think that, quite frankly, if a provider does nothing and is not prepared to cut over on Oct. 1, 2013, they will not be able to get a bill out the door and be reimbursed for it,” Triggs tells FierceHealthIT. “A lot of providers don’t really understand just how much this is going to cost. If you’re banking on [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] not pushing this out and you’re gambling, you’re playing with fire.”

Triggs says that KLAS isn’t trying to be alarmist with its report, but calls the consequences for further delay “devastating.” The report itself calls ICD-10 “much more than a one-time technology change,” emphasizing that multiple departments and systems will be affected in terms of workflow.

The main issue concerning providers, according to the report, is training, followed by physician/nurse readiness. According to Triggs, the best thing that hospital officials behind the 8-ball can do is to start by getting organized.

“They need to at least sit down now, if they haven’t already, and develop a multidisciplinary steering committee with a proper governance structure,” Triggs says. “Then, they should develop a roadmap and a budget, to address all of the issues that are going to show up in their periphery.”

Additionally, providers with the financial bandwidth would be wise to reach out to third-party firms–like Deloitte or PwC–for assistance with that initial push, Triggs says. According to the report, close to two-thirds of the 163 providers interviewed plan to call on such companies to help them fill in the gaps.

“I’m not out schilling for third-party consulting firms … but some providers don’t know what they need to do” or where they should begin in terms of creating a roadmap, Triggs says. “These third parties will be able to help them at least chart a course, which I think will be extremely successful in helping them achieve the milestones they need to complete before the deadline.”

Time, however, is of the essence, Triggs adds.

“I think that all of these resources are going to become scarce later on,” he says. “The longer you wait, the more likely it is you’ll be paying a premium down the road.”

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