Survey says? Practices are sluggish to test for HIPAA 5010

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As the deadline for hospitals to convert to HIPAA Version 5010 quickly approaches, a survey conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has found that practices are lagging in the race to meet 5010 deadlines. In fact, 45.2 percent of practices said that they have not yet started implementation or software upgrades.

While 53.4 percent of the respondents said that they are fully aware of these HIPAA mandates, the majority said that they have not yet scheduled internal testing. Another 84.8 percent said that they have not yet prepared an impact analysis detailing how this conversion will affect operations.

If the Jan. 1, 2012 deadline is not met, practices could see a loss in productivity and have difficulty processing claims. More than 50 percent of the practices surveyed said that their practice management system would need a system upgrade or replacement to accommodate the newer version. Only 29 percent of respondents felt that their current software systems would accommodate Version 5010 without software updates.

Survey respondents estimated that converting to HIPAA Version 5010 would set them back $16,575. This figure includes software, hardware and staff training. “This is a significant expense for a medical practice in this challenging economy. It is critical that vendors communicate their readiness status and the expected transition costs to groups quickly to permit practices to appropriately budget and plan,” William F. Jessee, MD, president and CEO of MGMA said.

Of the respondents, 42.9 percent said that their practice management vendor is geared up to replace or upgrade their system to accommodate the newer version, 34.5 percent said they are not.

MGMA has asked health IT vendors to step in and strengthen their role in the process and has asked facilities to schedule proper testing to ensure that their IT solutions will be ready to make the switch.

"We are growing increasingly concerned regarding the ability of medical group practices to meet the Jan. 1 deadline," Jessee offered. "Our research indicates a significant number of practices have been forced to wait for their practice management system software vendors to make the required modifications before they can begin to test with clearinghouses and health plans.”

Only 9.2 percent of practices said that they have begun internal software testing and 2 percent said that they do not plan to start internal testing until after the January 2012 deadline.

"As only six months remain before the compliance date, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services must aggressively augment its outreach to both physician practices and practice management system vendors. MGMA urges the government to institute an appropriate contingency plan to avoid widespread cash flow disruption in the industry, should dramatic improvements in the implementation status of providers not be observed in the next few months," Jessee stated.