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Participate in Physician Query Benchmarking Survey

CDI professionals spent the bulk of 2008 worrying and wondering what guidance AHIMA would finally offer for conducting physician queries. The back and forth negotiation of final guidance development proved fruitful for many healthcare stakeholders from compliance to finance, health information to clinical documentation improvement.

But it’s time to take the guidance off the shelf and see how those in our profession actually use the physician query process every day. Please take a moment to participate in our ACDIS Physician Query Benchmarking Survey.

We will analyze the results and issue a report later this spring. While the best part of participation really comes from the sharing of information and the general condition of creating community. . . ACDIS Director Brian Murphy sweetened this incentive by adding a little contest to the mix.  One lucky participant will be chosen at random to receive a free admission to this year’s ACDIS conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. If the winner already has a paid seat to the conference then he or she gets a free pass to the pre-conference event, ICD-9 Coding Essentials: What every CDI specialist needs to know.

So, click here, take the survey, help your fellow CDI professionals, and enter for a chance to win! Note that we plan to conduct these benchmarking surveys on a quarterly basis, and offer them exclusively for ACDIS members.

Breaking down sterotypes the CDI way

Those who have their eyes and ears open these days can’t help but see a shift at play. Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tuesday, we inaugurated the 44th President of the United States—and celebrated the first African American picked for the post.


So what better time to reexamine the stereotypes that most afflict the CDI profession—the preconceived notions about the roles and responsibilities of CDI specialists. There’s been lots of talk about who makes the best CDI professional—coders or nurses, case managers or HIM professionals. Similarly, there’s plenty of discussion about how to overcome the challenges of the “difficult” physician.


ACDIS advisors have tackled some of these concerns in CDI Journal articles, ACDIS Blog posts, and CDI Strategies snippits. For instance, check out this article from the CDI Journal regarding how to bridge the gap between coders CDI programs in the January 2008 issue, or this article by Lynne Spryszak, RN, about how to work with ancillary departments at your facility, or this piece regarding the role of physician advisers.


Now is the time to take a second look at our own stereotypes and break away from preconceived notions of how we expect people to think or work or act. This shift may just open the door to new possibilities.

Recognizing greatness: Nominations open for CDI Specialist of the Year

As most of you know, I’m a writer by trade and, some say, talent. I’m constantly telling ACDIS Director Brian Murphy how lucky he is to have me on board as ACDIS’ No. 2 go-to girl. (I think I nearly have him convinced.)

CDI specialists do not need to lean on self-promotional tactics like mine, thanks to the annual “CDI Professional of the Year” award.  Thankfully, there’s a little more glam and sparkle to this contest than there is to my generally unheeded boastings to Brian. For starters, winners get free admission to the annual ACDIS conference.  And don’t forget about the nifty trophy, of course.

Perhaps most importantly those chosen from the collection of nominations become the standard bearers for best practices of the CDI profession.

Last year, Randi Ferrare, RN, BSN, a CDI specialist at Morton Plant Mease Healthcare in Clearwater, FL, earned the award for revamping the program and instilling a multidiciplinary approach to documentation improvement.

“[Ferrare is] a very strong leader, and with that, she brings the mentoring piece. We’ve never worked with anybody like her,” said co-worker Kimberly Richert, RN.

In addition, CDI Professional Achievement awards went to Karla Johnson, clinical documentation specialist supervisor at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines and Nancy Taylor Ward, director of case management/documentation improvement at Tampa (FL) General Hospital.

We get so busy actually performing the duties of our respective professional roles that we neglect to see the proverbial forest through the trees. CDI specialists provide an important function in healthcare. This is your opportunity to earn accolades for your accomplishments. Please take a moment to fill out the form and send it to And good luck!


The ICD-10 final rule is out!

Hi ACDIS members, today the HHS published a final rule to adopt ICD-10 as the new national coding standard. ICD-10 will take effect on Oct. 1, 2013.

This is obviously huge news for CDI specialists, physicians, and coding staff. Physicians will require additional education to ensure they are documenting to the level of specificity needed to support the new ICD-10 codes. Query forms and documentation templates will have to be reworked, presumably the CC/MCC list will be changing, and the list goes on and on.

To read an abbreviated ICD-10 fact sheet that contains a link to the final rule, click here.

Here at ACDIS we plan to provide educational articles, audioconferences, e-learning courses, and more to help with your transition to the new system. I also encourage you to offer your thoughts and impressions of ICD-10 right here by commenting on this post, or by posting to your colleagues on the CDI Talk group.

Take care everyone,


CCDS credential: Answers to your top three questions

Hi everyone, questions about the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam have been coming fast and furious. I thought I would take a moment to answer a few of the most common types of questions I’ve received. So here goes:

Question 1: I cannot attend the conference in May, but I would like to take the certification exam. What are my options?

Answer: No need to worry. We will be offering the certification exam at approximately 170 H&R Block locations nationwide. Qualified candidates may schedule to take the exam at the most convenient location to their work or residence.

The May 16, 2009 Las Vegas administration of the CCDS exam is merely the first administration. Las Vegas test-takers will take a pencil-and-paper version of the exam. H&R Block test-takers will take it on a computer. Otherwise, the experience will be identical.


Q&A with the ACDIS advisory board: The problem of coders holding up charts

Q: We have a new CDI program with a huge learning curve. I am an RN in a CDI position. There are many things to ask, but the present issue is the re-querying done by the coders, which results in a large number of charts being held up. Has this been a familiar problem that others have had to deal with, and what have they done to cut down on the numbers? I appreciate any help you can offer.

Colleen Garry: I understand completely. When beginning a new program you have to be very clear and your staff needs to hold each other to consistent timelines pertaining to the query close out. Closing out a query is an art form. I suspect that the CDS nurses are not being efficient in their closeouts or are meeting significant resistance (this is normal with new programs) and the unanswered queries may be causing frustration for the coders (understandably). Query response and turnaround time is a must have to a successful program. One can educate and place queries all day long, but at the end of the day it’s all about impact.


A New Year wish

Shortly before New Year’s Day, I looked over my notes from the November 17th HealthLeaders Web cast “5 Ways to Hospital-Physician Quality: Goals, Incentives, Dialogue, Infrastructure, Data.” A statement on first slide of the presentation made pause. It read:


“Why? Fulfillment of personal and institutional mission: Do the right thing.”


Why, the presenter asked, did those listening to this audio chose a profession in healthcare.


CDI professionals, as you well know, follow varied career paths. Generally, they start out as nurses with a mission to care for the sick and help those in need. For some, the rigors of nights and long weekends interfere with family life and growing children. This leads to career diversification. Many see the inherent value of appropriate documentation as an extension of patient care, and this in turn, makes a move to CDI an appropriate professional match. As the presenters pointed out, the mission of healthcare regardless of professional role is consistent—“Do the right thing.”


I couldn’t help but wonder, however, if this statement represents a more fundamental shift in thought. Forgive me for being contemplative. We all know about the economic downturn. Daily we hear the roster of corporate layoffs and healthcare cutbacks. We are not blind. We recognize the warning signs. But what if we take these foretold tempests and turn them into positive winds of change? [more]

Holiday celebrations for CDI specialists

Hi ACDIS members, we’d like to wish you all a happy holiday. And to get in the spirit, we’ve included a timeless YouTube clip of “A Marshmallow World” sung by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Check it out!


Hopefully you’ve also taken the opportunity to weigh in on our weekly poll question “What are your CDI coverage plans for Christmas Day?”


So far, 83% of respondents said everyone in the department will have the holiday off to sip eggnog and toast the season with family and friends. Perhaps more surprising was the 12% of CDI specialists who said their department not only has December 25th off but several other days as well. Lucky you!


Not everyone is enjoying the holiday cheer equally: 1% said they’re stuck working, 3% said a colleague’s covering the department, and a final 1% said they hadn’t had time to think it about it.


While I admit to being a last minute shopper (I only just settled on buying my husband a new warm wool hat. Don’t laugh, those things can be expensive!), the time to consider holiday coverage has come. So, to those who pluck up the professional fortitude to report to duty on the Great American Opening Day (the day of opening presents) a special cheer of well wishes to you! To the rest of our fortunate CDI colleagues and friends: Happy holidays whatever they might be.


Also, starting in early 2009 we plan to upgrade CDI Blog over to WordPress, a fancy new blogging software program. Expect more content and a better-looking format in the coming year!

How much do you know about ICD-9-CM coding?

Are you frequently at odds with your coding staff because the documentation you’ve worked so hard to get doesn’t end up as a code on the final claim? Do your working DRG assignments get shot down too often? Does Coding Clinic or the ICD-9-CM Official Guidelines make your head spin?

If these or other scenarios sound familiar, you might want to consider coming out to Las Vegas a day early on Tuesday, May 13, for a special one-day pre-conference event: ICD-9 Coding Essentials: What every CDI specialist needs to know.

This one-day seminar provides an in-depth session on ICD-9-CM inpatient coding, the MS-DRGs system, and the forthcoming switch to ICD-10-CM. Tailored for clinical documentation specialists, participants will walk away with a firm understanding on how to use the ICD-9-CM Manual, the fundamentals of principal diagnosis assignment, and will learn how to assign the correct MS-DRG to cases with an MCC/CC as well as non-MCC/CC cases. You’ll also get up to speed on the forthcoming ICD-10-CM system.

Participants will receive one free copy of the 2009 ICD-9-CM Manual (Volumes 1, 2, 3) with admission.

Contact Shannon!


Our conference brochure is almost done so please check the conference page for updates. But in the meantime, Shannon has offered up her e-mail address to take any questions you may have about this special pre-conference event. You can reach Shannon at

Every Day You Write the Book

Have you heard that Elvis Costelo song Every Day I Write the Book? It compares a couple’s love story with the imagined characters of a romance novel.

While the story of ACDIS hardly mirrors a sordid affair, we certainly have started to write the proverbial book of the association. Which brings me to the point of my pun, we need your “chapters” to fill our “pages”. By which I simply mean that we’re stepping up our search for those starting local CDI chapters.

But getting to the point. . .you might have noticed this emphasis in a few places around the ACDIS Web site-there’s been a bit of chatter on CDI Talk, in the next issue of the CDI Journal we’re featuring a photo of the New England chapter, and Director Brian Murphy blogged about meeting the New England members during that group’s inaugural get-together.

If you are currently a member of a local group of CDI professionals we’d love to hear from you. Personally, I’d like to know how your group came to be, how long you’ve been around, and what difficulties you’ve managed to overcome since banding together. If you are interested in creating a local group of CDI professionals or hosting a local meeting of your own, we’d love to hear from you, too. We’re in the process of compiling a list of interested ACDIS members and existing state and regional chapters to increase your ability to network and learn from each other.

Send me an e-mail at I look forward to meeting you.