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Guest Post: Altered mental status remains a challenge in ICD-10-CM – part 2

James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

By James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

Determine the underlying cause of the altered mental status

Remember that the various forms of altered mental states have underlying causes, which, if defined, diagnosed, and documented, accurately represent the patient’s condition for risk-adjustment purposes. Options include:

  • Neurodegenerative disorders. To the extent that it’s possible to state what the underlying degenerative brain disease is, please do so. Options include Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy-body dementia, late effects of multiple strokes, normal pressure hydrocephalus, some cases of Parkinson’s disease, and a host of others. Note: The term “multi-infarct dementia” requires additional documentation that it is the late effect of multiple strokes. Consider the word “encephalopathy” as well (see the next item) when documenting these underlying causes.

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Q&A: Coding chronic kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus

LauriePrescott_May 2017

Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP, answered this question

Q: Let’s say a provider documented chronic kidney disease (CKD), 2/2 hypertension (HTN), and diabetes mellitus (DM), and the stage of CKD was not specified, but lab results show patient was in stage 2. Could I assign codes for CKD, stage unspecified, Hypertensive CKD w/ stage 1-4, and Type II DM. Do I need to assign a separate code for HTN?

A: Let’s break down the documentation.

CKD secondary to HTN and DM: With this documentation, we have two combination codes to assign—hypertensive CKD and diabetic CKD. We would also assign a code to reflect the stage of the CKD.

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Guest Post: Altered mental status remains a challenge in ICD-10-CM – part 1

James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

By James Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

In ICD-10-CM, defining, diagnosing, and documenting the various forms of altered mental status and their underlying causes remains an ongoing challenge for physicians and their facilities.

Even the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine states that, “‘Altered mental status,’ a nonspecific term that is frequently used to describe alterations in alertness, cognition, or behavior, is commonly encountered in the emergency setting.” If you have a subscription or access through your medical library, review the discussion at www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcps1603154. [more]

Q&A: Documenting excisions in dermatologic settings

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Have CDI questions?

Q: I work in dermatology and need to know what documentation is required for excisions. We are struggling with getting paid.

A: In dermatology, you often find vague documentation like “lesion” and “mass.” So the physician needs to be much more graphic as far as whether the lesion is red, itchy, scratchy, burning, and/or abnormally sized. If you can get the actual size of a lesion or a mass that they are going to excise, they also need to document the size of the excision.

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TBT: Primary, principal, and secondary diagnoses

ask ACDISQ: Sometimes I confuse the secondary diagnosis for the primary diagnosis. Do you have any tips for me to help me discern better?

A: This question touches on several concepts essentially at the core of CDI practices. I think you are confusing three definitions:

  1. Primary diagnosis
  2. Principal diagnosis
  3. Secondary diagnosis

Let’s take each of these individually.

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Guest Post: Addressing unspecified codes

Rose Dunn

Rose Dunn, MBA, RHIA, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, CHPS

By Rose T. Dunn, MBA, RHIA, CPA, FACHE, FHFMA, CHPS

When CMS told the American Medical Association (AMA) physicians could have a one-year grace period to become comfortable with ICD-10-CM/PCS coding systems, they made a bad decision. The agreement allowed providers to be less conscientious about their diagnosis coding, leaving them to focus only on the first three characters of the code for medical necessity purposes. In actuality, some providers took the compromise as a license to map their superbill codes and submit “not otherwise specified” (NOS) and “not elsewhere classified” (NEC) codes to all payers.

Matthew Menendez of White Plume Technologies estimated in 2016 the average rate of unspecified code use at the time was 31.5%.

“Payers want the more detailed diagnosis information available in ICD-10. The reason that both government and commercial payers advocated for the migration to ICD-10 and invested millions of dollars to rewrite their adjudication processes was for the granular diagnosis data on their insured patient populations. Payers want to leverage detailed ICD-10 codes to drive down the cost of healthcare in the United States and if the provider community does not supply this data they will begin to deny claims,” Menendez said.

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Q&A: Rejections for claims for removing impacted cerumen

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Ask ACDIS

Q: We have started receiving rejections for ED claims when the service involves removing impacted cerumen. We are reporting CPT® code 69209 (removal impacted cerumen using irrigation/lavage, unilateral) for each ear, and the documentation supports the irrigation/lavage rather than the physician removing the impaction with instruments. Our claims just started getting rejected in April. 

A: While your question doesn’t specify, it appears that you may be billing this with one line for the left ear with modifier -LT and one line for the right ear with modifier -RT. This code is included in the surgical section of CPT and correct coding requires that this be reported with modifier -50 for a bilateral procedure. In fact, there is a specific parenthetical note that states “For bilateral procedure, report 69209 with modifier -50”. 

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Note from the Instructor: Take a road trip this summer

road trip

Take a CDI road trip this summer!

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

I recently taught a CDI Boot Camp at a large, multi-site organization, with attendees coming from CDI, HIM, and quality departments from four different sites. We began the week discussing the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting, moving through each Major Diagnostic Category (MDC), and talking about concerns related to code assignment and sequencing.

This discussion was very much a review for the attendees who hailed from the CDI and coding departments. The quality staff, however, coming from a variety of roles related to core measures, patient safety indicators, inpatient quality reporting, and hospital value-based purchasing, had continuous lightbulb moments.

One individual literally hit the side of her head and said, “This explains so much. How come we were not taught this before?”

After the first few days, I asked the quality department staff if they have ever told a coder or a CDI specialist that they “coded it wrong.” Almost every attendee raised their hand. I then asked the CDI specialists and the coders if they have ever been told they had coded a record incorrectly by an individual who had no understanding of coding guidelines. Every one of them raised their hands.

We discussed communications with providers, compliant queries, and practices of leading versus non-leading interactions when speaking to providers. Many of those who worked under the umbrella of quality spoke up to say that perhaps their discussions with providers had been leading. They never received education about how to compliantly query a provider for a diagnosis or how to query for removal of a diagnosis.

When we discussed sequencing new rules related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and pneumonia, I noticed the quality folks looking at each other and making faces. I stopped the class to ask what was wrong. They responded by asking when the change occurred. When I told them late last year—per guidance from AHA Coding Clinic, Third Quarter 2016—they all sighed and one expressed frustration about not knowing about the change earlier. They had been struggling to understand why admissions for COPD suddenly sky rocketed. One simple discussion answered a question they had been struggling with for months. And, as an added bonus, they learned why the coders were sequencing these diagnoses as they were.

As the week progressed, we talked about the specifics of a number of quality monitors—discussing what populations were included, exclusions, and the adjustments applied to organizations related to reimbursement. Now the coders and the CDI staff were asking why they hadn’t been taught this material before. They began to understand why the quality department was so concerned about the presence or absence of specific diagnoses. The quality staff were saying, “we need your help.” There was a purpose to this class: to knock down silos, learn from each other, and support each other.

I often describe our efforts as a group of individuals driving down a five lane highway. We have coders, CDI specialists, quality staff, case managers/utilization review staff, and denials management all traveling in their own lane. But, we are all heading to the same destination. We are all working to bring success to our organization. We wish to be recognized for the high caliber of care we provide, and consequently reimbursed appropriately for the resources we lend to that effort. Documentation is the key to this successful road trip. The providers are working to navigate safely on this busy highway with only the drivers to direct them.

As we travel down this road, we often swerve into each other’s lane. Often we are forced to swerve because the provider looks for guidance from us, assuming we understand the driver’s manual for the other cars on the road. If we do not understand every other driver’s role and their specific manual, we cannot support each other. We need to keep all our vehicles traveling in the same direction at a safe speed and ensure that as the providers try to cross the road we don’t run them down. It is confusing to providers if the CDI specialists instructs them one way and the denial management team tells them the complete opposite. Then they seek clarification from the quality coordinator and get a third interpretation of the “rules.” The providers are bound to give up and just navigate in the bike lane, never making any actual progress.

So, how do we learn to support each other? We need to step out of our comfort zones and spend some time with the other disciplines driving down that highway. We need to ask questions and answer other’s questions in return. We need to recognize that what we do affects the other’s work and work to support them. Large organizations often foster silos more than smaller organizations as they separate out the job functions more definitively. Often smaller organizations expect one person to wear a number of hats. Even though there are issues with overwhelming one individual, it also breaks down barriers.

Before you panic, I am not suggesting one person does it all. I am suggesting, though, that we intermingle a bit more, shadow different job roles, invite others to shadow us.

Take the road trip together—it’s more fun that way!

Editor’s Note: Laurie L. Prescott, RN, MSN, CCDS, CDIP, is a CDI Education Specialist at HCPro in Danvers, Massachusetts. Contact her at lprescott@hcpro.com. For information regarding CDI Boot Camps visit www.hcprobootcamps.com/courses/10040/overview.

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Q&A: Best practices in time documentation

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Got CDI questions? Ask ACDIS!

Q: What is the best way to document time spent by physicians performing procedures? The CPT® codes state a vague time amount but the doctors struggle with this.

A: Time is always one of those really fun things, especially with E/M codes, because CPT puts a vague description of time amount requirements out there. So often, I end up having to query the physicians for time spend performing a procedure. I always like to have them explain the time. For example, he or she could say, “I spent 20 minutes of our 30-minute visit explaining how to properly use a new asthma inhaler.” That explains, how the physician met with the patient for 30 minutes and out of that time, used 20 minutes to explain how to use the new inhaler rather than just saying, “I spent 20 minutes discussing counseling or coordination of care.”

The other area that I always like to mention is sometimes time is best documented as “time in, time out.” Physicians are going to add that time up all day, especially if it’s a critical care patient. Physicians may want to get in the habit of documenting, “I walked in the patient’s room at 9:05 a.m. and we did our full thorough E/M exam and medical decision-making. I walked out of the patient’s room at 9:45 a.m.” So now coders have 40 minutes that a physician spent with the patient. And then a physician may go back into the room three hours later and document, “Patient was not responding well to those previous interventions. I now am back in the room at 11:18 a.m. and I spent from 11:18 a.m. until 1 p.m. with the patient and we’re still working on these interventions.” Then coders can add up all those time increments.

So to me, the best way I’ve found for providers to calculate E/M time is to document how many minutes of the total visit time that he or she spent counseling, doing coordination care, or what the provider talked to the patient about. But when I’m auditing inpatient records, I like to see the time in and time out and a bulk amount of time at the end of the day that I can add up to bill for that full-time increment and to know it’s all accounted for.

Editor’s Note: Lori-Lynne A. Webb, CPC, CCS-P, CCP, CHDA, CDIP, COBGC, AHIMA-approved ICD-10-CM/PCS trainer, answered this question during the HCPro webinar “Coding and Reporting Medical Necessity: Essentials for Coders and Other Healthcare Professionals.” This Q&A originally appeared in JustCoding

Guest Post: Improving the selection of a principal diagnosis

Commeree_Adrienne_web_106x121

Adrienne Commeree, CPC, CPMA, CCS, CEMC, CPIP

by Adrienne Commeree, CPC, CPMA, CCS, CEMC, CPIP

The selection of the principal diagnosis is one of the most important steps when coding an inpatient record. The diagnosis reflects the reason the patient sought medical care, and the principal diagnosis can drive reimbursement.

But while code selection may seem fairly straightforward in some cases, it can seem like throwing a dart at a board in others. Multiple factors must be considered and reviewed before a coder can assign a diagnosis as principal. There may be many reasons a patient went to the hospital, and multiple conditions may have been treated during that patient’s stay. Because of these complicating factors, relying solely on a software program to discern the principal diagnosis might lead to errors. A thorough review of the documentation, along with a solid understanding of the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting, instructional notes, and Coding Clinic issues, is imperative.

The ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting state:

The circumstances of inpatient admission always govern the selection of principal diagnosis. The principal diagnosis is defined in the Uniform Hospital Discharge Data Set (UHDDS) as “that condition established after study to be chiefly responsible for occasioning the admission of the patient to the hospital for care.”

The UHDDS collects data on patients related to race and ethnicity and is issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its definitions are used by acute care hospitals to report inpatient data elements that factor in the DRG classification system, which is how the hospital receives reimbursement for the inpatient admission.

Coders and CDI professionals must review all the documentation by the physician or any qualified healthcare practitioner who, per the coding guidelines, is legally accountable for establishing the patient’s diagnosis.

Parts of the medical record include the history and physical, progress notes, orders, consultation notes, operative reports, and discharge summary. While reading through a provider’s documentation, coders must ask themselves: “Is this condition requiring any diagnostic evaluation, therapeutic work, treatment, etc.?”

Once a medical record has been completely reviewed, coders must decide which code identifies the reason the patient was admitted and treated: What condition “bought the bed”?

But our work isn’t done after that. Are there any instructional notes or chapter-specific guidelines that give sequencing direction for coding? For example, if a patient is treated for decompensated diastolic congestive heart failure and also has hypertension, instructional notes within Chapter 9 of the ICD-10-CM manual, Diseases of the Circulatory System, give sequencing directives for the coding of these conditions.

“Decompensated,” according to Coding Clinic, Second Quarter 2013, indicates that there has been a flare-up (acute phase) of a chronic condition. I50.33 is the ICD-10-CM code for acute-on-chronic congestive heart failure. However, before assigning that code as the principal diagnosis, you must check the instructional notes directly under category I50 for heart failure. These notes, usually printed in red, give sequencing guidance for codes in this category.

Per the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting, “code first” informs coders that these conditions have both an underlying etiology and multiple body system manifestations due to that etiology:

“For such conditions, the ICD-10-CM has a coding convention that requires the underlying condition be sequenced first, if applicable, followed by the manifestation. Wherever such a combination exists, there is a ’use additional code’ note at the etiology code, and a ‘code first’ note at the manifestation code. These instructional notes indicate the proper sequencing order of the codes, etiology followed by manifestation.

To code for the hypertension, the instructional notes guide the coder to reference code I11.0 (hypertensive heart disease with heart failure). More instructional guidance following the code helps the coder correctly assign the principal diagnosis for this patient.

But we’re still not done. Are there any issues of Coding Clinic that give more information regarding the assignment of a principal diagnosis? In reference to the example above, congestive heart failure with hypertension, documentation guidelines for reporting these two conditions have changed for 2017.

The Third Quarter 2016 Coding Clinic reiterates the documentation requirements and sequencing by stating that “the classification presumes a causal relationship between hypertension and heart involvement.”

The preceding example is one of many. A coder can have more than one diagnosis that fits the definition of a principal diagnosis, or possibly two diagnoses that are contrasting (either/or). If there are no chapter-specific guidelines for sequencing (is the patient pregnant? Does the patient have an HIV-related illness?), then refer to Section II, subsections B, C, D, and E, in the ICD-10-CM coding guidelines.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in JustCoding. Commeree is a coding regulatory specialist at HCPro in Middleton, Massachusetts. Contact her at acommeree@hcpro.com. Opinions expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily represent HCPro, ACDIS, or any of its subsidiaries.