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FAQ: Counting Down to ICD-10

by Jennifer Bale, Senior Associate, Product Marketing

At athenahealth, we are thick in the throes of planning for the ICD-10 transition. Although the compliance date is almost two years away, we’ve been actively scoping the functionality and workflow changes required for the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10. And we are committed to getting providers and practices through the shift to ICD-10 as seamlessly as possible.

But we’re not the only ones actively working on ICD-10. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) publishes an informative and useful newsletter with advice and tips on how to get ready for the changeover. One of these newsletters, which included the excerpted questions you see below, was directed to vendors. So, in the spirit of open dialogue, we would like to respond with our own answers.  

1. Will a mapping or crosswalk strategy be used between ICD-9 and ICD-10 code sets?

This is a tricky one. Everyone will be required to operate in ICD-10 after the compliance date, but we know that not every player in the supply chain will ready. Luckily, we will have functionality that allows us to send ICD-10 codes to those who are ICD-10 ready and ICD-9 codes to supply chain partners who will not be ready by the compliance date.

2. What is your timeline for system modifications and what do those modifications include?

All of our products and services will be ICD-10 ready well in advance of the compliance date designated by CMS. We have already begun the work required for our client network, athenaNet, to be ICD-10 ready, and we’ll release features that allow physicians and staff to “practice” using ICD-10 codes without disrupting their workflow. As a matter of fact, we’ll pilot our ICD-10 functionality in 2013 with some of our clients and dial the pilot feedback right into our software and services.

3. Will you continue to support applications or are you discontinuing some products in the wake of the ICD-10 transition?

Our integrated product suite is cloud-based, so all of our clients are always on the most current version of the software.  We are not discontinuing any of our products or services in the wake of the transition.

4. Are there any new hardware requirements associated with ICD-10-related software changes?


5. Will training be provided for any new ICD-10-related functionality, and is there a charge?

We always provide product and workflow training as a part of our services. We’re currently investigating ICD-10 coding training options and will provide more information early next year.

6. Is there a phased approach for implementing ICD-10?

No. But, we will provide multiple ways for our clients to get comfortable with ICD-10.

In 2013, we’ll pilot our ICD-10 functionality with a few clients.  Feedback and data from that pilot will be dialed back into our software and services. Also, our change management plan includes a ‘Get Familiar’ stage, during which time clients can practice using ICD-10 in a way that won’t disrupt their workflow.

With this approach, both athena and our clients will be ready for ICD-10 well in advance of the compliance date.

7.  How does your product simplify my organization's transition to ICD-10?

We will take on the responsibility of all back-end services required for a smooth ICD-10 transition, including:

 --managing the ICD-10 code set

 --keeping the rules updated to reflect ICD-10

 --testing end-to-end with payers and other trading partners

 --tracking trading partners’ readiness to migrate to ICD-10

 --testing charge interfaces

8. How does the functionality offered by your system compare with my current system?

Every day we live up to our promise to be the best in world at getting doctor’s paid for the care they provide. This means we have a vested interest in making the ICD-10 transition as smooth as possible for our clients and their staff. (As an example, read more in this blog post about ANSI 5010.) And with our flexible cloud-based software, we can make changes to our system with minimal disruption to workflows. We can also monitor the performance of the network and react to what we’re seeing with other supply chain partners—such as which payers are not ready to accept ICD-10 codes.

9. Does your implementation require a complete system conversion?

Because athenahealth services are cloud-based, no specific upgrades are required to be performed at the client site. We improve our software every month and those changes are flowed seamlessly over athenaNet. Finally, we always work with our clients to make sure they are ready for each release.

10. Based on what I already have in place, how much will it cost to convert to your system?

All of the work required to convert to ICD-10 is already included in our normal service fee so clients will not have to pay extra. If you’re thinking of implementing athenahealth’s suite of cloud-based services for medical billing, EHR and care coordination, we’d be happy to connect you with a sales executive. Send an email to to get started.

11. What are the costs of maintenance for your product?

Zippo! None! Zilch! We don’t charge our clients maintenance fees for our software.

12. Who in this area is using your current system?

We are over 35,000 providers strong. Check out our Resource Library to read client case studies and watch client video testimonials.

13. What kind of product quality guarantees do you offer and are these guarantees included in the contract?

Actually, our entire business model depends on our clients’ success. We charge a percentage of collections, so any disruption to your cash flow is a disruption to our cash flow. We also guarantee a minimum of 99.7% uptime of our software.

14. What is your timeframe for implementation?

As noted up top, we are actively working on ICD-10 right now. We’ll pilot our ICD-10 functionality in 2013 and give clients plenty of time to ‘Get Familiar’ with ICD-10 without disrupting their workflow. We’ll release our ICD-10 changes to all clients in early 2014.

To further understand what your practice can do – and how we can help – please visit the ICD-10 section of our homepage. Look for more responses from us to CMS’s weekly news updates in upcoming blog posts. In the meantime, you can learn even more about ICD-10 by viewing our free on-demand webinar.

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