by Tanja Twist, MBA/HCM
You can’t manage what you don’t understand. So, the first step in any effective denials management program is to develop an understanding of the what constitutes a denial, as well as the different types of denials and their contributing causes.
Capture and categorize denials by their specific reason and dollar value, to deep dive into the type(s) of services being denied, the type of claim, the physician, payer, department, person, or situation that caused the denial. Despite a large number of denial reason codes used throughout the industry, all of them generally tie back to a few basic denial types: medical necessity or clinical denials, and technical denials.
Medical necessity or clinical denials
Medical necessity or clinical denials are typically a top denial reasons for most providers and facilities. They are also known as hard denials, in that they require an appeal to request reconsideration. Denial reasons that fall under this category include:
- Inpatient criteria not being met
- Inappropriate use of the emergency room
- Length of stay
- Inappropriate level of care
The primary causes of medical necessity denials include:
- Lack of documentation necessary to support the length of stay
- Service provided
- Level of care
- Reason for admission
Providers must ensure physician and nursing documentation clearly supports the services billed and that the physician’s admission order clearly identifies the level of care. One of the most effective means of ensuring compliance is through the implementation of a CDI program, either internally or outsourced to a qualified vendor. A successful CDI program facilitates the accurate documentation of a patient’s clinical status and coded data.
Implementing a successful CDI program is typically one of the most challenging pieces of the denials management process, but it is the most important for long-term success. First obtain the support of the executives and physician leadership within the organization and second, but equally important, identify a physician champion to serve as the liaison to the physicians, reviewing chart documentation, and providing feedback on how to prevent denials moving forward.
Any nonclinical denial can be categorized as a technical or preventable denial. Causes of technical denials can range from contract terms and/or language disputes or mistakes related to coding, data, registration, or, charge entry errors, and charge master errors. Other technical denials may be caused by claims submission and follow-up deficiencies and denials pending receipt of further information, such as medical records, itemized bills, an invoice for an implantable device or drug, or receipt of the primary explanation of benefits (EOB) for a secondary payer claim.
All healthcare claims need to be submitted in adherence with federal, state, and individual health plan requirements and all claims need to be submitted in a timely manner. Other claim submission errors can be caused by claims being sent to the wrong address or even the wrong payer. Technical denials are known as soft denials because they can usually be reprocessed by providing a corrected claim or other additional information to the payer.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from HCPro’s new handbook in the Medicare Compliance Training Handbook Series, Denials Management, published in January 2017 and written by Tanja Twist, MBA/HCM. This excerpt originally appeared in the Revenue Cycle Advisor.