March 05, 2009 | | Comments 4
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Ten reasons to adopt an electronic query process

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in CDI Strategies, a free weekly e-newsletter.

Many clinical documentation improvement programs remain true to the paper query. Who could envision the death day of the “purple sheet” or “pink sheet,” as some facilities call their query form? But with the federal government promising an intense infusion of funds for health information technology, that day could be on its way.

Need more convincing to consider using an electronic query in your CDI program? Barbara Hinkle-Azzara, RHIA, chief product strategist for Meta Health Technology, a HIM software developer based in New York, outlined her top 10 incentives to move ahead with an electronic query format.

1. Streamlined queries: Implementing an electronic system necessitates an analysis of your facility’s current query procedure. This presents the opportunity to identify and prioritize bottlenecks and move to eliminate query process issues.

2. Improved documentation legibility: Ever struggle with illegible physician notes? With an electronic query process, physicians answer queries electronically so the response is legible instead of hand-written communications that are often difficult to read and interpret.

3. Stepping into the electronic medical record (EMR) era: An electronic query process takes you one step closer to a complete EMR system. In it, the physician can provide any clarification or specificity on the case by creating an electronic document that you can link to the patient’s EMR and make it available as a permanent part of the medical record.

4. Growing physician satisfaction: Physicians often complain about time constraints. They’re too busy with patients to handle duties such as documenting in the medical record. Allowing physicians to respond to queries electronically requires a lesser time commitment, and increases their satisfaction with the overall clinical documentation improvement process.

Additionally, sending the queries electronically allows the physician to answer the query remotely, saving him/her a trip to the facility to answer the query and/or document in the record.

5. Reduced manual follow-up responsibilities: Electronic systems allow you to automate reminders to physicians. This reduces the amount of time staff members spend tracking down physicians by phone or in person.

6. Increased staff productivity: By reducing the time staff members spend on the query process, an electronic system allows CDI professionals to focus on performing additional daily record reviews.

7. Improved reimbursement turn-around time: Similarly, if the electronic query can reduce the time spent chasing physicians on queries (both concurrent and retrospective) it can also reduce or eliminate related delays associated with incomplete records.

8. Enhanced medical record documentation quality: Gains in efficiency with an electronic query process improves the content and quality of the medical record at time of discharge.

9. Heightened tracking and monitoring capabilities: Using an electronic physician query process makes your query data more accessible and allows you to track your facility’s key metrics, such as query volume, query rate, and query response rate. When you have this data electronically, it provides you with more time to analyze the results and work on performance improvement efforts.

10. Increased respect for your CDI program/query process: Reporting collected data to administration and other key stakeholders builds recognition and respect for your CDI program and/or query process. After all, you need to get the credit you deserve for your CDI program success!

Editor’s note: Barbara Hinkle-Azzara, RHIA, chief product strategist for Meta Health Technology Inc., a HIM software developer based in New York, wrote this tip. Prior to joining Meta, she served as the Director of HIM at three acute-care teaching facilities in New York City. Contact her at or visit

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Filed Under: ACDISCDI ProfessionPhysician queriesUncategorized


Melissa Varnavas About the Author: Melissa Varnavas, is the Associate Director of the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS). ACDIS is a community in which CDI professionals share the latest tested tips, tools, and strategies to implement successful CDI programs and achieve professional growth. With more than 5,000 members, its mission is to bring CDI specialists together. To learn more about ACDIS, go to or call HCPro customer service at 800-650-6787.

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  1. Lynne Spryszak

    Another plus: An electronic query process makes the queries themselves more legible. It’s senseless to maintain paper queries when everything else is going digital.

  2. Are there any down-sides to going digital? Where are the e-query pain points so to speak?

  3. We are transitioning some of our physicians to electronic queries (as different groups come on line for progress notes) — one of the largest downsides for us is trying to identify a single location that the physicians can easily see to place the query. Each user type (physician, nurse, etc) have different views in the EMR and each user can choose a particular ‘home page’ look.
    Currently, we are posting queries in a location that is not consistently and easily located by the physicians. More of an IS issue than a technology issue, related to the work load of implementing different phases of the EMR.
    Related is repeating the work of physician education, recognition and expectations — understanding that this is the same CDI process they are used to but in a different format, where to document the response (in the PN, not the query), etc.


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