When news of the ICD-10 implementation delay broke this past spring, the reaction among healthcare providers was similar to what you might expect from a class of college students receiving news of a term paper extension: a collective sigh of relief interspersed with a few high-fives and cheers.

If you’re among the crowd of healthcare professionals who are thanking their lucky stars for the one-year pushback, keep in mind that the new deadline won’t make the transition any less challenging or resource-intensive—it merely delays the inevitable. And just like the first time around, procrastination won’t get you anywhere. Because at some point—just as those college students are going to have to buckle down and crank out their essays—you’re going to have to start submitting claims with ICD-10 diagnosis codes. And once the go-live date of October 1, 2015, is upon us, you’ll have a pass-fail situation on your hands as carriers will deny all claims lacking ICD-10 codes.

So, what should you be doing in the meantime? That question is currently on the minds of many medical professionals. According to this Government HealthIT article—which summarizes a study by the American Health Information Management Association and eHealth Initiative—the preparatory items of highest concern within the healthcare community are documentation improvements, workforce training, and partner testing.

The first two tasks are closely related; after all, to improve the quality and efficiency of your practice’s documentation processes, you’ve got to not only educate your staff about what is expected of them, but also allow them the opportunity to practice creating documentation that meets your standards. The data speak to that relationship with 61% of survey participants saying they’re training more staff in preparation for the switch and 68% conducting additional training and practice exercises to help combat the expected productivity loss. Furthermore, about one-third of respondents said they plan to hire more coders.

When it comes to testing, the results are a little more split. About 40% of participants in the above-cited study plan to begin end-to-end testing by the end of 2014 with an additional 25% saying they’ll start in 2015. On the other hand, 41% indicated that they don’t know how to test, and 45% admitted they’re unsure of how ready their business partners are. (If you’re not up to speed on the ins and outs of ICD-10 testing, check out this blog post on external testing and this one on internal testing.)

Of special concern to physical therapists is coordination with top referral sources. As certified coder and medical coding auditor David Zetter says in this HealthLeaders Media article, “The person in your office who is taking that phone call or referral needs to understand what information they need from that referral partner to make sure that diagnosis code is as accurate as possible and includes all the information.”

Another thing to consider? How your practice—or, more specifically, your EMR—will handle dual coding. Medicare allows providers to submit claims up to a year after the actual date of service, which creates a bit of a pickle. As the HealthLeaders Media article explains, “…a claim submitted for service before October 1, 2015, will require an ICD-9 code even though you may submit it in January 2016—but that claim will require the new ICD-10 code as well.”

October 1, 2015, might seem like a long way off, but with so many things to check off of your to-do list before ICD-Day, you’re certainly better off being proactive. That way, by the time the transition rolls around, you won’t be holding your breath and hoping for an extension.

Was your practice ready for the original ICD-10 transition date? How have your preparatory plans changed in the wake of the delay? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.