Will Healthcare.gov Experience Prompt HHS to Delay ICD-10?

I don’t think it will be news to anyone reading this that HHS is getting hammered for their implementation of Healthcare.gov. Sebelius congressional testimony was brutal. Certainly the botched implementation of Healthcare.gov will have long lasting impacts on all future HHS IT projects.

While not purely an IT project, I wonder if the experience of Healthcare.gov will have an impact on the ICD-10 implementation. Will HHS be gun shy after the Healthcare.gov debacle that they’ll delay ICD-10 to avoid another one?

My gut reaction is that I don’t think this will happen, but it’s worthy of consideration.

On October 1, 2014, HHS’s IT isn’t ready to accept ICD-10, then you can read the headline already: “HHS Botches Another IT Project.” For those of us that work in healthcare IT, we know that ICD-10 has deep IT implications. Not the least of which will be CMS being ready to accept the ICD-10 codes. While you’d think this is a simple change, I assure you that it is not. Plus, if CMS isn’t ready for this, a lot of angry doctors and hospitals will emerge. It will be a major cash flow issue for them.

We still have almost a year for HHS to get this right. Plus, HHS has had years to plan for this change so they shouldn’t have any IT challenges. Although, if they do have IT challenges this extended time frame will damage them even more. The article will say they had plenty of time and they still couldn’t implement it properly.

With the comparison, there are also plenty of reasons why ICD-10 is very different than Healthcare.gov. In many ways, ICD-10 is a project implemented by companies outside of HHS as opposed to a project run by HHS. First, I think it’s unlikely that HHS won’t have their side ready for ICD-10. Second, their part of ICD-10 is very little compared to what has to be done by outside payers, hospitals, and doctors offices.

If ICD-10 has issues it will likely be seen as the payers or healthcare organizations not being ready as opposed to HHS. That’s not to say that HHS won’t have some damage if they force an ICD-10 mandate and people aren’t ready. They could have some collateral damage from it, but not the same as Healthcare.gov where the product is really their own product.

Plus, if ICD-10 goes bad, consumers/patients won’t know much difference. No patient cares if you code their visit in ICD-9 or ICD-10. They’ll still get the exact same care when they’re visiting the doctor. If ICD-10 goes bad, it will be doctors and hospitals that suffer. That’s a very different situation than Healthcare.gov which was to be used by millions of Americans.

I hope that HHS doesn’t delay ICD-10 based on their experience with Healthcare.gov. If HHS becomes gun shy about any project that IT touches, nothing will ever get done. That’s a terrible way for an organization to function.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • To put your headline question another way, Will the Administration be just as stubborn about ICD-10 next year as it has been about the ACA HIX Web site this year?

    The difference there is the actual delivery of care is affected vs. managing the payment for eventual care.

    For as complicated as the Federal Data Services Hub is for the Administration, ICD-10 is more complex for providers by orders of magnitude.

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