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Summer Reading: Physician Education Discussion Scenarios

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Laurie L. Prescott, MSN, RN, CCDS, CDIP

by Laurie L. Prescott, MSN, RN, CCDS, CDIP

The following clinical scenarios illustrate where clarification would be indicated and include examples of differing communication methods.

Clinical example: The record states the patient was admitted for treatment of pneumonia and the patient was placed on IV antibiotics. A swallow evaluation indicates the patient is at risk for aspiration. The patient is placed on aspiration precautions and thickened liquids. For the coder to assign a code for aspiration pneumonia, the relationship between the pneumonia and aspiration needs to be documented in the record.

Approach #1 (verbal query): “Dr. Smith, I’m Jane from the documentation improvement team. Do you have a minute to work with me? This chart indicates the patient is at risk for aspiration and needs thickened liquids. Could you identify a probable etiology for her pneumonia? The physician responds, “It is probably due to aspiration.” The CDI specialist thanks the physicians and asks, “Could you please clarify that possible cause-and-effect relationship in the record?” She then reminds the physician that “Unlike outpatient coding, the use of possible or probable is permitted and can be coded for inpatient cases.” The physician immediately writes an addendum to his progress note: “Jane, thanks for your help.”  Jane should then document this verbal query and the results as part of the CDI notes for this account. [more]

Summer Reading: Stepping out on your own

LauriePrescott_May 2017

Laurie L. Prescott, MSN, RN, CCDS, CDIP

by Laurie L. Prescott, MSN, RN, CCDS, CDIP

‘Flying solo’

After a few trial runs, new CDI specialists should be given the opportunity to review records on their own. Before composing any queries during this initial stage, the manager or mentor should review a draft of the query proposed and provide feedback to identify any additional opportunities and compliance concerns, as well as to save the fledgling staff member from any potential physician ire due to a misplaced query.

Such feedback should reinforce concrete rules of the CDI road and should be supported by official rational from governing bodies such as AHA Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS, Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting, ACDIS/AHIMA Guidelines for Achieving a Compliant Query Practice, or in-house policies and procedures.  Of course, mentors and managers should offer their expert opinions and tips on how to practice effectively, as well. This feedback should also offer the new staff member an opportunity to voice questions and concerns, and accelerate the learning process. This step in the process can continue until the new staff member and the preceptor agree that the new CDI specialist is functioning well independently and is comfortable “flying solo.”

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Summer Reading: A letter to new CDI staff

LauriePrescott_May 2017

Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP

by Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP

Dear Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist,

I remember my first day as a new CDI staff member very well. I had been through an extensive interview process—three interviews, a written test, and a meeting with the consulting firm that trained me. At the time, all I understood was that I was going review records and help medical staff meeting documentation needs. After more than 20 years of nursing experience, and time spent as a nursing school clinical instructor and in management, staff development, and healthcare compliance roles, I figured this would be an easy jump for me. It was a jump that felt like I had leapt right off a cliff.

I spent my first day training with two inpatient coders and the consultants. These two ladies were an interesting pair. One had been coding for more than 25 years, and I concluded she could diagnose most disease processes better than a number of physicians I knew. The second was new to the inpatient process, having coded in outpatient and clinic settings for a few years. We were implementing a new CDI program. Everyone looked to me to make this program a success. I soon understood this was much more of a challenge than I ever imagined.

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Summer Reading: Tips for preparing for the CCDS exam

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Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

By Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

Once you have met the two-year minimum work experience requirement required to sit for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential exam, it’s time to study. Start by reviewing CCDS Exam Candidates Handbook for information on applying to sit for the exam as well as the process for taking the test. The following are a few additional tips that many successful candidates have used to earn their certification:

  • Discuss with peers and supervisors
  • Join a study group
  • Visit the CCDS discussion board on the ACDIS Forum
  • Start studying early like a few months prior to sitting for the exam
  • Review a new content area each week
  • Spend extra time studying areas where you feel less confident
  • When reviewing practice questions multiple times, make sure you understand the concept and don’t just memorize an answer
  • Take a day or two to prepare your mind and body for the exam
  • Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good meal before taking the exam
  • Leave plenty of time to arrive for the exam

Once you are set to begin the exam, take a deep breath, exhale, and let your knowledge and experience guide you through successful completion of the certification.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from the “CCDS Exam Study Guide,” by Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS. To read more about certification, visit the ACDIS website, here.

 

Summer Reading: New CDI staff exercises to perfect the review process

LauriePrescott_May 2017

Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP

by Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP

Shadowing staff

Often, the first step in becoming comfortable with the CDI record review process comes from simply shadowing existing CDI staff members. If you are the first and only CDI specialist in your facility, reach out to ACDIS via its CDI Forum or local chapter events. Consider calling nearby facilities, asking for their CDI department manager. Many CDI specialists willingly open their doors to those just starting out. If your CDI manager is willing (or has connections of his or her own), perhaps you will be able to shadow a neighboring facility to get a better idea of how different CDI programs function as well.

Many CDI program managers ask candidates to do this during the interview process so both parties better understand the basic competencies and expectations of the job. Other program managers gradually introduce new CDI specialists to the process by shadowing experienced specialists at least once per week for a set number of hours or records per day. Other programs may require new staff members to jump into the reviews as soon as possible. [more]

Book Excerpt: CDI’s role in inpatient-only procedure documentation

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Debbie Mackaman, RHIA, CPCO, CCDS

By Debbie Mackaman, RHIA, CPCO, CCDS

Connect CDI, utilization review, and case management before the patient is discharged

When a procedure converts to an inpatient-only procedure during the surgery, the documentation process may get a little more complex. Analyze what happened during the procedure itself. If the inpatient-only procedure is performed on an emergency basis, it’s likely the admission order was not obtained prior to the procedure. The outcome for the patient will determine the next steps. If the patient expires, no further action is required by the registration or operating room staff. The coding and billing teams take over resolution of the case.

If the patient does not expire, the surgeon should confirm the type of surgery originally scheduled and the reason for the needed change to the inpatient-only procedure. He or she should do so before the patient leaves the postoperative area. The care team needs to make a determination regarding the admission of that patient. Under current CMS guidance, the three-day payment window may apply in this scenario. The case should be held for billing purposes until a thorough post-discharge review can be completed.

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Book Excerpt: CCDS exam format

Jurcak

Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

By Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

The CDI specialist role is complex and multidisciplinary, suitable for clinically knowledgeable professionals who are proficient in analyzing and interpreting medical record documentation and capable of tracking and trending their CDI program goals and objectives. These professionals possess knowledge of healthcare and coding regulations, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Furthermore, such professionals possess the valuable ability to engage physicians in dialogue and educational efforts regarding how appropriate clinical documentation benefits patient outcomes and the overall well-being of the healthcare system.

Therefore, the CCDS exam content stems from:

  • Analysis of the activities of clinical documentation specialists in a wide range of settings, hospital sizes, and circumstances
  • Input from ACDIS member surveys
  • Input and research of the CCDS advisory board comprised of experienced clinical documentation specialists

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Book Excerpt: Listen to the butterflies

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CDI Field Guide to Denials Prevention and Audit Defense

By Trey La Charité, MD, FACP, SFHM, CCDS

CDI professionals need to take seriously those fluttering feelings found in the pit of the stomach when anxiety arises.

Experienced coders often have what may feel like to the uninitiated as a sixth sense about compliant code assignment. Such professionals employ the breadth and depth of their experience to apply a wide range of coding guidelines to a particular scenario. So when the coding team expresses concern about a medical record’s final coding summary, wise CDI professionals take heed. Likewise, as a CDI professional’s experience grows and he or she becomes familiar with the coding system, common claims denials, and Recovery Auditor targets, they too will develop some degree of extrasensory auditor perception.

Overtime, coders and CDI professionals come to know problematic areas. Facilities that neglect to harness this level of expertise miss a tremendous opportunity to prevent denials before they’re issued.

As a wise man once said, “If it doesn’t pass the smell test, don’t code it.”

When such situations arise, CDI program administrators should take every effort to appease those butterflies.

For example, the 2013 ACDIS/AHIMA Guidelines for Achieving a Compliant Query Process included an addendum recommending facilities develop a query escalation policy. The samples offer suggestions for CDI and coders to bring questions of clinical validity to a manager or steering committee for review.

Many CDI programs also create a reconciliation policy to handle any discrepancies between CDI and coder opinions regarding documentation and coder of a particular medical record. Effective programs establish collaborative methods of communication between the two departments, allowing both teammates the opportunity to ask each other questions and share information supporting their opinions. When unable to reach consensus, the case may get bumped to the coding/HIM manager and CDI manager/director to discuss or for the final determination.

Editor’s note: This excerpt was taken from the CDI Field Guide to Denial Prevention and Audit Defense by Trey La Charité, MD, FACP, SFHM, CCDS.

 

Book Excerpt: Teamwork makes the dream work

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Elizabeth Lamkin, MHA, ACHE

by Elizabeth Lamkin, MHA, ACHE

CDI specialists do not work alone. They form a team with case management (CM) and physicians for concurrent documentation analysis and improvement. The case manager advises the physician on patient status, the CDI specialist ensures the documentation reflects the status and care, and the physician advisor is there to support CM and CDI if there is conflict with a physician or clinical staff. The physician advisor can take advantage of every interaction to transform potential conflicts into teaching opportunities.

For example, a patient is scheduled for surgery as an outpatient but the surgery is on the inpatient-only list (CMS, OPPS final rule, 2016). The surgery scheduling department checks the inpatient-only list and notifies the physician that CM is going to review for status. The surgery department then alerts registration, which notifies the CM, who checks to make sure all requirements for the inpatient surgery are met. The CM advises the physician on correct status and, ideally, the physician follows the CM’s advice.

The CDI specialist checks the documentation for compliance and coding, and queries the physician if the documentation is incomplete. If the surgeon refuses to change or complete the documentation, the CDI specialist escalates the issue to the physician advisor. The physician advisor contacts the physician and explains the reasons for inpatient status and additional documentation. The surgeon completes the documentation as requested. If these steps are completed, coding and billing will clearly know what claim to drop without requiring a bill hold and clinical review.

Additionally, this three-part team of CDI specialist, CM, and physician advisor are able to gather real-time feedback on whether the electronic health record (EHR) is user-friendly, and report findings back to the executive team and IT. In some cases, problems with the EHR are simply user error or lack of training, and the CDI specialist can play a role in teaching providers to use the EHR.

Throughout this process, the HIM department works with CDI and supports physicians through functions such as timely transcription and ensuring chart completeness. Together, CDI and HIM look to ensure appropriate orders, signatures, and all required elements of the medical record. This includes ICD-10 coding and documentation to monitor ICD-10 compliance. HIM has traditionally been responsible for the organization of the medical record but now must have a collaborative relationship with IT and the EHR vendor to ensure the record works well for all stakeholders.

Finally, HIM will also review the medical record upon discharge for completeness. The next step is to code the record for payment. If all the previous steps in revenue cycle have occurred correctly—required forms are in place, patient status is clearly documented with a care plan, and discharge status is clear and accurate—then the coders should have all the elements needed for accurate coding. There should be very few physician queries from HIM if coding is clearly supported through documentation. Getting all of this right while the patient is in the hospital will facilitate accurate coding and produce a clean claim to avoid back-end corrections and delayed billing.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from The Revenue Integrity Training Toolkit by Elizabeth Lamkin, MHA, ACHE. Lamkin is CEO of PACE Healthcare Consulting and specializes in system development, quality and billing compliance. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of ACDIS or its advisory board.

Book Excerpt: Understanding basic types of denials

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Tanja Twist, MBA/HCM

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.

Technical denials

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.