May 27, 2011 | | Comments 0
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Book Excerpt: Look to others for advice when starting a new CDI program

The Clinical Documentation Improvement Handbook, Second Edition

A savvy CDI steering committee looking to implement a new CDI program should seek the opinion of other facilities in their vicinity, perhaps even visiting other programs and shadowing CDI professionals on their rounds. Such engagement provides anecdotal first-hand experiences to help shape the roles and responsibilities of the CDI staff and it helps the steering committee gauge potential problems.

The group may also decide to enlist the assistance of professional associations; both the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS) help foster local meetings in various states where members freely discuss program troubles and triumphs. Furthermore, ACDIS surveys its members annually regarding the structure, staffing, and focus of CDI programs.

For example, two studies, an April 2010 CDI Staffing Survey featuring responses from 85 CDI department directors and a July 2010 CDI Program Benchmarking Survey featuring 482 responses from a variety of CDI professionals, both indicated that a majority of CDI programs employ registered nurses as CDI specialists who report to the HIM director.

Whether a facility uses coders, nurses, or some combination of both, and regardless of to whom the CDI staff reports, the goal of capturing complete and accurate documentation should not be compromised in favor of other agendas. Without clearly defined responsibilities, a case manager who also performs some CDI work may push one set of responsibilities aside for another given the limitations of time, experience, and administrative expectation. Conversely, a coder might not pursue a query if tasked with concurrently coding a chart, meeting productivity standards, and maintaining discharged, not final billed (DNFB) goals.

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from The Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist’s Handbook, Second Edition written by Marion Kruse, MBA, RN and Heather Taillon, RHIA, CCDS.

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Filed Under: Book ExcerptGrowing your program


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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