Cute Headline Papers Over Another Possible Healthcare Computer Disaster Ahead

How do you report really ominous news when you don’t want people to dislike your favored politician? For the New York Times the answer is to lead with a bunch of nonsense and bury the bad news: “Roughed Up By An Orca? There’s A Code For That.”

Know someone who drowned from jumping off burning water skis? Well, there’s a new medical billing code for that.

Been injured in a spacecraft? There’s a new code for that, too.

Roughed up by an Orca whale? It’s on the list.

Next fall, a transformation is coming to the arcane world of medical billing. Overnight, virtually the entire health care system — Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers, hospitals, doctors and various middlemen — will switch to a new set of computerized codes used for determining what ailments patients have and how much they and their insurers should pay for a specific treatment.

So does that seem normal to you? Does that seem efficient? Is it really helpful or necessary to have a specific code for jumping off burning water skis? Does that make any sense at all?

No. It is inefficient, bureaucratic stupidity. No doctor in history ever helped a victim from an Orca attack and said, “If only there was a code for this.”

No, this was the brainchild of government:

The new set of codes, known as I.C.D.-10, allows for much greater detail than the existing code, I.C.D.-9, in describing illnesses, injuries and treatment procedures. That could allow for improved tracking of public health threats and trends, and better analysis of the effectiveness of various treatments.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to be interviewed about the new codes. But a spokeswoman said that the agency was “committed to implementing I.C.D.-10 on Oct. 1, 2014, and that will not change.”

[…]

I.C.D.-10 is the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, which is issued by the World Health Organization, though countries can modify it.

Having a common global code allows for easier collection, comparison and analysis of the causes of death and illness. Most other countries have already adopted I.C.D.-10, at least for record-keeping and in some cases for reimbursement.

The World Health Organization’s quest for mandatory record keeping is not the same as market efficiency. It is pure propaganda to equate the implementation of such a coding system with “modernization.” In fact, implementing this code system has been costly to hospitals. Worse, many are worried that the rollout will be as disastrous as the healthcare.gov rollout. In both cases, Kathleen Sebelius is the one in charge.

The changes are unrelated to the Obama administration’s new health care law. But given the lurching start of the federal health insurance website, HealthCare.gov, some doctors and health care information technology specialists fear major disruptions to health care delivery if the new coding system — also heavily computer-reliant — isn’t put in place properly.

They are pushing for a delay of the scheduled start date of Oct. 1 — or at least more testing beforehand. “If you don’t code properly, you don’t get paid,” said Dr. W. Jeff Terry, a urologist in Mobile, Ala., who is one of those who thinks staffs and computer systems, particularly in small medical practices, will not be ready in time. “It’s going to put a lot of doctors out of business.”

Perhaps Terry is being too pessimistic. It is hard to know for sure. But making everyone upgrade their systems in order to have a single code for being injured in a spacecraft was not worth the risk.