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Note from ACDIS Director: The changing tide of sepsis definitions

ACDIS Director, Brian Murphy

ACDIS Director, Brian Murphy

By Brian Murphy

These days it seems sepsis is constantly in the news. Hardly a day passes where the efficacy of some new life-saving drug is being advocated or disputed, a sepsis DRG downgraded, or Sepsis-2 versus Sepsis-3 definitions debated. We’ve also had some major recent news from the likes of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign.

CDI specialists inhabit a world in which they need to navigate three sets of reporting requirements: Sepsis-2, Sepsis-3, and SEP-1, the latter from the National Quality Forum measure for public reporting of sepsis.

How can CDI specialists make sense of it all? I recommend reading our most recent ACDIS White Paper, “Where are we now with sepsis?”

The paper covers in detail the multiple issues around this tricky diagnosis, from the problems inherent in administrative versus clinical data, to systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock prior to the new Sepsis-3 definitions in 2016, and the definitions post Sepsis-3. The article also includes a nice bulleted summary and takeaways for your CDI department and medical staff.

Special thanks for principal authorship go to ACDIS advisory board member Sam Antonios, MD, FACP, SFHM, CPE, CCDS. Though primary authorship goes to Antonios, the entire ACDIS advisory board reviewed the work prior to publication.

To download the new White Paper, click here.

I would also encourage any of our ACDIS members who haven’t been by our resource pages in a while to check out all our White Papers and Position Papers. We’ve been publishing some helpful guidance of late, and more is on the way.

I hope this paper proves helpful in your continued mission of clinical accuracy in the patient chart.

If you have suggestions for topics you’d like to see the advisory board address, please let me know via email at bmurphy@acdis.org.

Note from ACDIS Director: Your CDI civic duty—vote in the advisory board election

If you’ve ever read one of our Position Papers, White Papers, a Note from the Board in our bi-monthly CDI Journal, or listened to an ACDIS Quarterly Conference call, then you know what a crucial role the ACDIS advisory board plays in the leadership of our association.

That’s why we need you, our ACDIS members, to take a few minutes out of your day for a very important duty: Voting for our next group of board members.

ACDIS advisory board members serve a voluntary, three-year term. Members of the board write articles, answer member questions, review conference materials, set direction for our CDI Practice Guidelines committee, and more.

Read more about our board members and their responsibilities on the ACDIS website by clicking here.

This year, seven finalists have stepped up to run and volunteer their time and energy. They deserve to have our members make an informed choice and cast their votes. Out of the seven nominees, the four with the most votes will be elected by popular vote of the ACDIS membership, for terms effective April 2017 through April 2020.

This vote by our membership is an important responsibility and we hope you take a few minutes to fulfill it.

View our voting page (open to ACDIS members only) here.

How to vote

  1. First, log onto the website with your username and password. You must be an ACDIS member in good standing. If you have forgotten your username/password, please write or call our customer service team: customerservice@hcpro.com, or 1-800-650-6787.
  2. Go to our voting page by clicking here.
  3. Read through the candidates’ bios/qualifications and reasons they are running, and then write down your top four votes.
  4. Click the yellow “vote” button.
  5. Our voting tool requires you to rank the candidates. Your top choice should be ranked number one, your second choice number two, etc. on down through number seven. If you’d like, you can just rank your top four candidates.
  6. Click the gray “vote” button. It will ask you to you review your choices.
  7. Once you are satisfied, click “confirm” and you are done. Our website only allows you to vote once.

You have two weeks to cast your ballot; voting opens today, Thursday, March 16, and closes end of day Friday, March 31.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter!

Note from the Director: CDI success requires more than a credential

Which credential/certification/licensure makes for the best CDI specialist? RN? RHIA? MD?

If you answered all of the above—or none of the above—you’re on the right track, according to a new Position Paper written by the ACDIS Advisory Board published on the ACDIS website.

To be blunt, no licensure or credential can identify whether someone will succeed as a CDI specialist. Not even ACDIS’ own Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) certification can guarantee that. We do, however, require anyone who sits for the CCDS exam to have two years of experience as a CDI specialist, so we feel good about the competency of our CCDS-credentialed professionals. CCDS holders must understand the basic core competencies and have demonstrated their skills in the field already.

But is that person a guaranteed fit with your culture?

Is that person dependent on an encoder or other computer assisted coding/natural language processing (CAC/NLP) tool that your hospital does not have?

There are many other factors that make up a good CDI specialist. As the new Position Paper explains, these factors include:

  • Effective verbal and written communication
  • Self-directed with an ability to work independently to complete the work at hand
  • The ability to think critically
  • A commitment to lifelong learning

The new Position Paper also notes that a strong clinical foundation is a must for any CDI specialist, and hiring an RN, MD, or an RHIA with strong clinical acumen will certainly fulfill that requirement. But, it’s no guarantee of success as the paper states:

“Credentials do not guarantee whether one will succeed as a CDI professional. Credentials merely identify the body of knowledge in which that person was originally trained. Prior bodies of knowledge certainly assist one’s success, and credentials and/or licensure provide identification of one’s stated profession and their level of education or achievement, but they do not ensure CDI competence. There is a number of necessary skills that cannot be ensured or captured by a credential.

It always comes down to the person. Why should CDI be any different?

If you’re wondering whether a Position Paper represents ACDIS’ official stance on an issue, you can find the answer here. Our recently published “Hierarchy of Authority” explains the order of significance of our published articles. ACDIS Positon Papers are peer-reviewed and represent the consensus opinion of the advisory board. We hope you find “ACDIS’ ‘Hierarchy of Authority’ of published articles” helpful as you navigate our website.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in CDI Strategies. Brian Murphy is the director of the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists. Contact him at bmurphy@acdis.org.

Conference Q&A: Ericson sheds light on alternative payment models

Ericson_Cheryl_BE

Cheryl Ericson, MS, RN, CCDS, CDIP

Editor’s note: Over the coming weeks leading up to the conference, we’ll take some time to introduce members to a few of this year’s speakers. The conference takes place May 9-12, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. For today’s Q&A, we caught up with Cheryl Ericson, MS, RN, CCDS, CDIP, the manager of clinical documentation services with DHG Healthcare, who will present “Leveraging CDI to Improve Performance under Alternative Payment Model Methodology.” Ericson is recognized as a CDI subject matter expert for her body of work which includes many speaking engagements and publications for a variety of industry associations. She currently serves on the advisory board for ACDIS and its credentialing committee (CCDS).

Q: Could you tell me a bit about what makes Alternative Payment Models (APM) different for CDI?

A: Participation in voluntary APMs is very complex and requires a high level of commitment from the healthcare organization. More than 800 hospitals, however, are required to participate in the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model (CJR) and an additional 1,100 or more hospitals will be required to participate in the episode payment for AMI and coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG). Because participation is based on randomly selected Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) many hospitals may be unprepared for the impact. These models are retrospective so the hospital is paid as usual under the applicable MS-DRG, but following the completion of the performance year the hospital may be required to return some of their payment to Medicare or they may receive an additional payment. This type of model, like many of the outcome measures included in the mandatory value-based methodologies, require CDI specialists to look beyond the current episode of care. The mandatory quality programs, however, only use a 30-day timeframe. In comparison, an episode of care in the APMs extends 90 days beyond hospital discharge or the date of surgery.

Q: What are three things attendees can expect from your session?

A: Attendees can expect to learn:

  1. The difference between the mandatory value-based programs such as HVBP, HRRP, HACRP, and mandatory APMs
  2. A better understanding of the mandatory bundled/episode based payment methodologies
  3. Strategies to incorporate into the CDI process to accurately reflect organizational performance under the mandatory bundled/episode payment methodology

Q: What is one tool CDI professionals cannot live without?

A: A grouper that supports risk-adjustment efforts.

Q: In what ways does your session challenge CDI professionals to think outside the box?

A: As the fee-for-service population decreases, which was reliant on CC and MCC capture, CDI specialists need to understand and modify their efforts to reflect modern CMS reimbursement strategies to support organizational financial health.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?

A: Like most, I enjoy reconnecting with friends. I have the added bonus of reconnecting with former ACDIS Boot Camp participants. It’s great to learn how people have advanced in their career as the CDI profession continues to grow!

Q: Fun question: What is your favorite candy?

A: Dove Promises dark chocolate with almonds. Yum!

 

Guest Post: Tips for appealing MS-DRG denials

Sam Antonios, MD

Sam Antonios, MD

by Sam Antonios, MD, FACP, FHM, CPE, CCDS

Over the last 18–24 months, health- care organizations have seen a surge in MS-DRG denials, sometimes referred to as clinical validation denials.

When reviewers from Medicare Advantage health plans, Recovery Auditors, or other private or contracted health plans analyze a clinical case submitted for reimbursement, they may determine that a particular disease should be removed from the claim. They argue that the clinical documentation in the medical record does not support the diagnosis submitted. In the vast majority of these cases, the removed diagnosis is a CC or MCC, which causes the MS-DRG to shift to a lower payment.

MS-DRG audits are nothing new, but their frequency has significantly increased over the last two years. In some circumstances, the volumes have been over- whelming. There have also been reports of cases where denials have been egregious, unjustified, or made with disregard for the treating physician’s opinion.

Although there is no surefire way to win an appeal, here are some tips to increase the likelihood of overturning MS-DRG denials.

One: If you believe the case has merit, file an appeal, even if the variance in dollar amount is insignificant. It may be tempting to let go of denials that minimally affect the reimbursement, but when the treating provider’s documentation is available, complete, and accurate, and the coding is correct per official coding guidelines, organizations should appeal. This maintains consistency and makes the appeals about data integrity, rather than payment.

Two: Write clearly and summarize first. The appeal reader will likely not want to spend a lot of time figuring out the intent of the appeal. The first few lines need to describe the clinical case and need for appeal succinctly. Additional details can be included in later paragraphs.

Also, remember to reference review articles, clinical guidelines, or other findings to support your appeal.

Three: Learn how to navigate the electronic health record (EHR) to find relevant information. The history and physical and the discharge summary may not capture the entire clinical picture.

Learn where to locate, and how to decipher, emergency department documentation, consultant reports, progress notes, nursing notes, and other provider documentation, which can often include vital information to a support an appeal.

Additionally, respiratory notes can reveal the status of the patient, including lung exams, respiratory effort, and need for respiratory treatments. The goal should be to offer a complete and accurate clinical picture of the patient.

Four: If possible, review records from transferring facilities to help describe the patient’s case. These records are likely scanned into the record later in the patient care process, but they should be collected before an appeal. Creatinine levels, electrolytes, and other laboratory findings can help differentiate acute and chronic symptoms and conditions.

Five: Keep track of denials electronically. Preferably, use denial-tracking software. If such software is not available, or too costly for your facility, spreadsheets can be just as effective. Remember to update and back up these records regularly.

Editor’s note: Antonios is the CDI and ICD-10 physician advisor at Via Christi Health in Wichita, Kansas. A board-certified internist, he manages the hospital EHR system, works closely with quality leaders to tackle challenging documentation requirements, and engages with physicians on CDI and quality initiatives. This article is an excerpt from its original which appeared in the Sept./Oct. edition of the CDI Journal. Contact him at Samer.Antonios@via-christi.org.

Note from the Advisory Board: Collaboration begins with appreciation

Paul Evans

Paul Evans

by Paul Evans, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, CCDS, and Anny Yuen

The debate regarding which profession makes the “best” CDI specialist unfortunately continues. Many facilities and consulting firms, initially trained to believe that only nurses could perform the duties of a CDI specialist, continue to propagate such expectations.

Yet we believe other clinicians (e.g., physicians, physician assistants, foreign medical graduates) and nonclinicians (e.g., coders and health information management [HIM] professionals) also perform well in the CDI role with appropriate training.

When considering candidates for an open CDI position, CDI managers need to take a closer look at their initial job descriptions and make sure they accurately reflect not only the current needs of the department and the expanded role CDI specialists need to play, but also changes in industry expectations.

Anny Pang Yuen

Anny Pang Yuen

We’ve seen instances where programs take sample roles and responsibilities wholesale, and fail to customize their expectations or include professionals outside nursing. It has long been ACDIS’ stance that facilities should find the candidate best suited to the particular position. ACDIS has long expressed itself as an inclusive organization, welcoming coders, nurses, physicians, case managers, quality staff, and all who are interested in learning more about the value of complete and accurate documentation in the clinical record.

Further, in order to sit for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential, ACDIS lists out several levels of required education and skills. Among them, professionals must have an associate-level college degree—as the role of CDI specialist requires a high level of cognitive analysis and the integration of significant clinical acumen and awareness of healthcare reimbursement processes.

On the coding side, educational differences between those holding the Certified Coding Specialist, the Registered Health Information Technician, and the Registered Health Information Administrator® credentials are vast and may include formal college credits, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology, among other areas. However, because some facilities do not require coders to have advanced degrees, the conventional wisdom often gets reiterated—that coders in general have no clinical training or knowledge.

As HIM professionals engaged in CDI efforts at our facilities and as active members of the ACDIS Advisory Board, we stand to represent those from the coding side of the house who have effectively leveraged their experience to help advance the CDI mission. We have proven that we can per- form duties as CDI specialists and lead successful departments, while promoting the team dynamic between providers and HIM and CDI.

Not all coders can serve as CDI specialists, and neither can all nurses. Being a CDI specialist takes creativity and strong understanding about clinical documentation and indicators. The first step to true collaboration requires a deeper awareness and appreciation of the talents each individual, regardless of professional background, brings to the table.

Editor’s Note: This article originally published in the Sept./Oct. edition of the CDI Journal.

Review ACDIS advice regarding use of prior information in query creation

Cheryl Ericson

Cheryl Ericson

Last year at around this time, the ACDIS Advisory Board released a white paper reviewing the role of CDI specialists in assessing information in the medical record from prior treatments.

Codes cannot be assigned based on previous conditions. However, there’s a gray area clouding whether CDI professionals can pull information forward to clarify a diagnosis being treated during the current episode of care, says Cheryl Ericson, MS, RN, CCDS, CDIP, manager of CDI services at DHG Healthcare, during an ACDIS Radio discussion on the topic.

ACDIS created the white paper as a means to help CDI programs open a dialogue about such concerns within their facilities and to help CDI managers begin to craft policies and procedures around compliant and ethical practices regarding electronic health record interrogations.

It states:

In particular, CDI specialists face the dilemma of whether to apply information from prior encounters when querying a physician in order to clarify a diagnosis documented in a current admission or episode of care. The CDI profession is divided on this topic: Some are comfortable referencing the historical information within the query when it clarifies a currently documented condition relevant to the current episode of care; however, others believe this practice violates Uniform Hospital Discharge Data Set (UHDDS) definitions regarding an episode of care, as well as coding guidelines.

The paper reviews overarching guidelines and weighs various references such as reporting additional diagnoses and the definition of the term “encounter,” to help CDI programs begin to assess their own practices.

In Arizona where Judy Schade, RN, MSN, CCM, CCDS, works as a CDI specialist at Mayo Clinic Hospital, the population includes a large

Judy Schade

Judy Schade

number of “snowbirds,” retirees who travel to warmer climates for the winter. For these patients, information included in the electronic medical record often represents an important link between the current encounter and conditions which may have developed in another setting since their last hospital visit.

“We might not have the most current information so we need to be careful and to ask the provider where additional information may be needed to validate a diagnosis and pull it forward,” Schade says.

“It’s not enough for the physician to say this is a complex patient,” Ericson says. “They have to document it. If someone has hypertension they’re clinically always going to have hypertension. However, we cannot automatically make that assumption in coding that’s why the physician has to document ‘history of,’ or ‘chronic,’ or something else that is affecting this episode of care and the resources directed toward treating it.”

Such information “is so much more accessible” due to extensive use of electronic health records than it was in the past, ACDIS Director Brian Murphy says. CDI specialists need to determine whether looking back in the medical record, or opting not to look back, artificially limits a CDI professional’s ability to capture diagnosis specificity or whether concerns regarding the compliance of such activities are valid.

For example, Schade cautions that CDI specialists could be pulling forward outdated or inaccurate information as well intentioned as they may be. So “partner with different departments to formulate your policies. We’re moving in a different way of looking at things so we really need to carefully examine this process and develop the best practices,” she says.

The white paper walks through some common concerns but also recommends reviewing recommendations from the Joint Commission, CMS, and your own facility’s compliance, IT, and coding policies, for example.

Editor’s Note: This article originally published in the free eNewsletter CDI Strategies. Subscribe today!

Back to basics: The key skills that represent the cornerstone of CDI success

Wendy De Vreugd

Wendy De Vreugd

During a conversation regarding what basic elements CDI programs need at the onset in order to be successful, ACDIS Advisory Board member Wendy De Vreugd, RN, BSN, PHN, FNP, CCDS, MBA, Director Case Management Case Management and Clinical Social Work
University of California Irvine Health offered the following suggestions. Contact her at wdevreug@uci.edu.

  1. Selecting staff: Matching CDI key skills/qualification/experience to the CDI role and CDI needs of the facility (academic, community hospital, access hospital, product lines). Staff members also need to be an effective trainer and engaged learner to be able to internalize the CDI mission and explain it to physicians and ancillary staff. Having skills in communication/negotiation (vs. introverted) and knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses goes a long way in being successful in this role.
  2. Assessing where to start: New program managers (or those tasked with starting CDI reviews) need to understand administrators’ top priorities and focus area for the program. The first task is to meet (or exceed) those expectations in order to move the program forward and meet some of the larger programmatic targets suggested by industry leaders. (Advancing beyond CC/MCC capture and straight Medicare record reviews.)
  3. Creating the return on investment (ROI): Regardless of whether your program is a single CDI staff shop or led by a manager and team of coworkers, those involved need to understand the mission and the metrics used to measure the program’s efforts toward its goals. Providing those metrics to the team and keeping that information sharing going through administrative outcome reports (showing quality progress and revenue/CMI capture) not only ensures transparency but effectiveness as well.
  4. Standardizing queries: As this is the CDI program’s most essential tool, spend some time studying the evolution of physician query practice guidance from AHIMA and ACDIS. Queries do need not be scripted. In fact, each must contain the critical clinical information related to that particular patient encounter. Yet, the program needs comprehensive policies and procedures in place as to how to draft a compliant query, how to follow up with physicians, how to track queries, and how to escalate matters if necessary.
  5. Building critical relationships: As CDI professionals essentially work as intermediaries between physicians and coders as translators between the clinical and coding languages establishing effective relationships with these core groups can’t be understated. CDI teams should meet regularly with HIM/coding staff to share documentation integrity concepts. They should feel enabled to ask coders questions about new guidelines and coding conventions. CDI staff also need to obtain input from other departments such as wound care, pharmacist, respiratory therapist, nursing, ICP, etc.)

These are just a few of the essential ingredients, to be sure. If you’re just starting out and want some additional information, feel free to reach out to Wendy or any of the members of the ACDIS Advisory Board. Learn more about them at our website.

Note from the Director: ACDIS announces new timeline for advisory board applications and elections

The ACDIS advisory board recently announced a new timeline for applications and elections to serve on the board. Beginning in 2017, the application period will open in mid-January. Candidates will have three weeks to complete their application. A committee will review applications and narrow the pool of applicants down to a group of finalists, who will be selected by a popular vote of the membership in mid-March. The results of the election will be announced in early April and our new board members will be introduced at that time.

Each year four new board members are voted on and four rotate off.

In 2017, ACDIS will open up the application period on Monday, January 9, and it will run through Monday, January 30.

Why should you run for the ACDIS advisory board? ACDIS advisory board members are engaged in the CDI profession. They are forward thinkers, with a positive vision of evolution of the CDI profession. They must be ACDIS national members in good standing and possess the CCDS certification.

ACDIS advisory board members learn from each other and the ACDIS membership, whom they serve. They are content experts who provide insight on our quarterly membership calls, contribute to our position and white papers, and speak on panel sessions at the ACDIS conference.

Above all they care about the CDI profession and want to make a difference in healthcare.

If the above sounds like you and something you want to be a part of, we encourage you to apply.

You can view the complete list of qualifications here, as well as the nomination and election process and frequently asked questions: http://www.acdis.org/membership/boards#advisory.

You will also find a list of presently serving ACDIS advisory board members and their email addresses; they are happy to answer any questions you may have about the requirements, time commitment, and benefits of board service.

We look forward to your application! Please keep an eye out for the official opening of the application period on January 9.

A Note from the Director: ACDIS Advisory Board responds to new definitions of sepsis, septic shock

ACDIS Director, Brian Murphy

ACDIS Director, Brian Murphy

As reported in the March 3 edition of CDI Strategies a joint U.S. and international task force recently revised the definitions of sepsis and septic shock. The new definitions and revised criteria were published in the Feb. 23 Journal of the American Medical Association .

The new definitions of sepsis and septic shock are quite different from current definitions and significantly raise the bar for diagnosis. More or less, the task force equates this new definition of sepsis (Sepsis-3) with what was once “severe sepsis,” and also implemented a Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) for its diagnosis, as well as Quick SOFA (qSOFA) bedside criteria for patients likely to have sepsis.
Since publication of this news, ACDIS has not been idle. We covered the news first on the March 2 ACDIS Radio with Dr. Richard Pinson and Dr. James Kennedy.
Then, led by the efforts of Dr. Sam Antonios, the ACDIS Advisory Board drafted a response for the ACDIS membership, summarizing the new changes and issuing some recommendations for how members should address them in their institutions and published the position paper New Definitions of Sepsis and Septic Shock: Response from the ACDIS Advisory Board.
Finally, Antonios on behalf of the ACDIS Advisory Board recently followed up with the principal authors of The Third International Consensus Definitions for Sepsis and Septic Shock (Sepsis-3) in a subsequent letter that details some of the documentation and coding issues the new definitions have raised. We hope that the task force responds in a meaningful way that we can share with you, the ACDIS membership. ACDIS plans to publish this letter in an upcoming issue of CDI Journal.
I’d like to thank our ACDIS Advisory Board members for their work in responding to the new definitions. And to our members, please stay tuned for further information and guidance from ACDIS on this important issue.
All the best,
Brian Murphy, ACDIS Director