At some point, you're going to have to inventory your healthcare vendors for ICD-10 readiness.

That means listing all the products and determining if they use ICD-9 codes. Those will be the software and equipment that need to be upgraded or replaced in order to work after Oct. 1, 2014.

You're also going to have to contact the makers of those products and find out a few things:

  •     Is this product ICD-10 compliant? (Incredibly likely not but you have to ask.)
  •     Will this product ever  be compliant? (You're going to be surprised by how many vendors say no.)
  •     What is your timetable to make your product(s) ICD-10 compliant?

Pretty easy, right?

Kerry Martin, CEO of VitalWare, says not always. VitalWare has made a business of talking to healthcare vendors about their products and reporting what it means to clients. "Everyone of those hospitals takes its inventory in whatever state it's in and gets it to us. We work with their department directors and anybody on the ICD-10 committee or task force," says Martin. "We then match it up to our master index of products."

Again, sounds easy.

Except the healthcare industry has a pretty active history of acquisitions. One company buys another. Changes the names of products for consistent branding. Or kills the product line because they have a competing product on the market. So it's not always easy figuring out who to call.

And Martin says hospital staffs tend to have multiple names for products and systems they use. The name being used during every day practice may not be the one the vendor recognizes.

Not to mention that vendors and hospitals tend to have their own languages. So translating questions and responses add complexity to the process.

Once they know who they need to talk to and about what they need to discuss, Martin says VitalWare asks about 100 questions about the product and its development. For the free VitalVendors tool in the HIMSS ICD-10 playbook, they share five of those questions:

  •     "When do you plan to start and complete your ICD-10 internal testing?"
  •     "When do you plan to start and complete customer review and/or beta testing?"
  •     "What is the product version of your software that will be ICD-10 compliant?"
  •     "When do you plan to start and complete customer training on these updates?"
  •     "What is your estimated release date for customer use/installation?"

Martin says VitalWare has about 100 questions, and they keep asking those questions every 60 days. The vendors don't answer all those questions each time. Just the ones that have different answers since the last survey because they're making progress towards readiness.

Note that some of the questions listed focus on how the vendor plans on working with the customer. That means there's a bit more to the implementation that installing software or equipment and flipping on the switch in 2014. It's a process that needs managed.

It's not impossible for a hospital or medical practice to do this kind of work internally. But it needs time and the skills of a project manager. "Do they have the right people inside the organization to poll the vendors for the information? Do they ask the right questions.?" asks Martin. "How do they (IT personnel) know what to ask vendors? How do they know if that makes sense, if that's going to work right?"

It's tempting to say a hospital's IT department doesn't need to ask 100 questions of every vendor. But someone needs to be vigilant and monitor vendors' progress towards ICD-10 compliance. There just may be 100 questions asked by Oct. 1, 2014.

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