Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Revamping the Outpatient Setting with Clinical Documentation Improvement

by Kayla Dickard, RHIA, CCS 

When we think of clinical documentation improvement we correlate that with concurrent reviews on inpatient records, but with the increase of outpatient visits there is a growing trend for outpatient clinical documentation improvement. Per CMS, between 2006 and 2014 outpatient visits per beneficiary have increased by 44%, while inpatient discharges per beneficiary have decreased by almost 20%.  Another major reason to implement CDI is to optimize reimbursement. In 2015, CMS announced its intent to shift from fee-for-service into value-based strategy. This will allow for monetary incentives to providers who demonstrate high quality, efficient care through their performance. As these programs progress, providers will also be financially penalized for poor performance. CDI will play a major role by verifying documentation supports quality of care provided. Also, with the use of electronic health records there are many ways for CDI specialists to improve the functions to the physicians needs for documentation requirements. 

There are numerous benefits of clinical documentation improvement, of course the main one being to increase documentation specificity. Having this greater specificity will allow for accurate code assignment, reduce denied claims, and reduce any other barriers to billing. CDI in the outpatient setting to review documentation will also decrease the additional documentation requests and increase compliance to billing and coding regulations.  Also, having correct and current documentation will correspond with an increase in quality of care to the patient and provide accurate quality scores. Interestingly, according to a recent article published in Journal of AHIMA, first research of its kind has established a link between patient outcomes and uncoded diagnoses in the patient record. Patients that have an uncoded diagnoses account for higher utilization of inpatient and emergency services, and experience less than optimal patient outcomes for chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Therefore, CDI can play a part in verifying the physician is documenting all conditions and there is support to code in outpatient visits.

Although there are many advantages to an outpatient CDI program, there are some barriers that will need to be addressed. First, the short length of stay is going to be a challenge. Compared to the inpatient setting where CDI may have days to review a record, now CDI must review the documentation before it gets to the coders in a short window of time. Also, there are many more outpatient visits compared to inpatient discharge. So having this large of a case volume will be something to consider. Also, when starting a CDI program in the outpatient setting there can be a lack of focus for what CDI is trying to accomplish. Lastly, having physician buy-in and cooperation can make or break the success of implementing CDI. 

Here is a diagram that illustrates the CDI functions depending on the outpatient setting. 

Physician Practice
  • Ensure the capture of all diagnosis that the provider is currently assessing, treating, or monitoring
  • Verify the E&M code assignment for the encounter is correct based upon the available documentation
  • Identify opportunities for remediation of the EHR software to improve the provider workflow in support of efficiency and clarity of documentation
  • Ensure complete documentation of diagnoses that impact the HCC assignment and the associate risk adjustment factor
Emergency Room
  • Capture the severity of clinical picture
  • Accurately capture facility ED level charges
  • Improved documentation of infusions and injections
  • Creation of an accurate problem list
  • Addressing and correcting gaps in the patient care during visit
  • Acquire documentation of circumstances of an injury
  • Obtain clear documentation for reason to admit from ED
Infusion Clinics
  • Obtain capture of documentation of the following:
    • Order for services
    • Type of infusion
    • Infusion route and site
    • Stop and start times
    • Consistent documentation of nursing and physician
  • Educate nursing and ancillary staff on requirements for accurately documenting all necessary elements to support payment of infusions and injections
Diagnostic Clinics
  • Clarify documentation requirements for diagnostic versus screening services
  • Assist in educating provider on difference of diagnostic and screening testing
  • Encourage providers to document the specifics of their findings
Ambulatory Surgical Clinics
  • Review documentation to ensure medical necessity for outpatient procedures is clearly documented and meets NCD and LCD requirements
  • Assist with initiatives related to bundled payments
  • Capture documentation of risk adjustment during pre-admit testing and primary care referral
  • Confirm proper documentation after discharge to ensure proper post-acute transfer
Wound Care Clinics
  • Validate documentation of the following:
    •  Diagnosis of wound
    • Location and laterality of wound
    • Wound type
    • Cause of wound



Arrowood, D., Johnson, L., & Wieczorek, M. (2015, July). Clinical documentation improvement in the outpatient setting. Journal of AHIMA, 86(7), 52-54. Retrieved from http://bok.ahima.org/doc?oid=107688#.WRjwfOXyvIU

Combs, T. (2016, May). Benefits and barriers for outpatient CDI programs. Journal of AHIMA. Retrieved from http://journal.ahima.org/2016/05/27/benefits-and-barriers-for-outpatient-cdi-programs

Outpatient clinical documentation improvement (CDI): An introduction. (2016, May). Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists. Retrieved from https://acdis.org/system/files/resources/outpatient-cdi-intro.pdf

Vir, R. (2016, August). Four reasons why hospitals have to start outpatient CDI programs now. Retrieved from http://www.saince.com/four-reasons-why-hospitals-have-to-start-an-outpatient-cdi-programs-now/

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Eight Top Denial Focus Areas for Auditors

by James S. Kennedy, MD, CCS, CDIP

Over the years there’s been a tsunami of denials from payers, Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC), and Medicare quality improvement organizations. This is due to the auditors’ removal of ICD-10-CM codes based on provider documentation; auditors can perceive that a patient did not have clinical indicators supporting the presence of the condition.
The recent release of the 2016 Surviving Sepsis Campaign’s International Guidelines for Management of Sepsis and Septic Shock added jet fuel to these denials. This guideline supported a redefinition of sepsis (known as Sepsis-3) as a life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection.
As such, auditors are now saying that if a code for R65.20 (severe sepsis) or R65.21 (septic shock) is not submitted, other codes for sepsis (such as those in categories A40-A41) are invalid since the physician did not document any acute organ dysfunction as linked to the patient’s sepsis.
While coding is based only on provider documentation, hospitals and payers are authorized to have their own criteria to ascertain the clinical validity of any submitted code. As such, if a payer has criteria that differ from those of the provider or the facility, the payer can deny ICD-10-CM/PCS codes it deems not to fit these criteria.
It seems that not much can stop a payer from denying a code just because they want to. Coding Clinic, First Quarter 2014, pp. 16–17 gives further power for payers to ignore official ICD-10-CM conventions, guidelines, and advice by stating, essentially that the facility should work the payer to inform the payer about the rules and try to work it out.
I see no solution to this dilemma other than to address clinical validity as follows:
  • Traditional Medicare – Through legislation
  • State Medicaid – Through legislation or the state’s insurance commissioner
  • Private insurance companies – Through contracting
  • All three – Rigorous negotiation and implementation of clinical definitions with medical, clinical documentation integrity, coding, and compliance (as allowed by Coding Clinic, Fourth Quarter 2016, pp. 147–149) as to self-audit prior to bill submission and rigorously defend their coding when challenged by RACs.
As such, we must have our own definitions supported by credible references as well as working directly with the payer’s medical directors. Facilities must negotiate these definitions in their contracts with payers to stem the onerous burden of defending our clinically valid coding.
Allow me to review some of my favorite oft denied diagnoses and their references.
Sepsis: I am personally a big fan of Sepsis-3, which means that there should be explicit documentation of some organ dysfunction (notice that it does not have to be organ failure) due to sepsis to qualify for severe sepsis.
On the other hand, if you want to use Sepsis-2 criteria, clinical measures should focus on Medicare’s definition of Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) due to infection listed in its SEP-1 core measure. Other references include:
Coma: The ICD-10-CM Index to Diseases classifies the term “unconsciousness” with coma. Patients must be unarousable to stimuli, such as voice, pain, or inner need. Terms like “semi-coma” or “obtundation” are still coma clinically, however, the provider must document coma or unconsciousness to obtain a coma code. Glasgow coma scales can also support a coma diagnosis.
References include Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 10th edition and Plum and Posner’s Diagnosis of Stupor and Coma /Edition 4.
Encephalopathy: A diffuse brain disease or global brain dysfunction manifested as an altered mental status. ICD-10-CM has many options for documenting its underlying cause, such as due to medications (toxic encephalopathy), metabolic issues (acute hypoglycemia, uremia, or hyponatremia), anoxia, and the like.
If a patient’s altered mental status (major neurocognitive disorder [dementia], delirium, or psychosis) can be explained by a named brain disease (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, the late effect of stroke), then the term “encephalopathy” is integral to these diseases unless it is explicitly documented that the altered mental status differs from that of the underlying brain condition.
In other words, the physician must state terms like “toxic encephalopathy” or “metabolic encephalopathy” and describe what the toxin, poison, or metabolic issue is. References include Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 10th edition, and National Institutes of Health.
Acute respiratory failure: An acute failure to ventilate or oxygenate. Clinical indicators supporting acute respiratory failure were developed by the Maryland Hospital Association and are available on its website. Pediatric indicators are available here. All of these references support the need for high flow oxygen or outside ventilator support (CPAP, BiPAP, or mechanical ventilation). (To read an ACDIS White Paper focused on pediatric respiratory failure specifically, click here.)
Acute kidney injury: Of all the criteria out there, I promote the 2012 KDIGO criteria. The Acute Kidney Injury Network’s 2007 requirement for rehydration to assess the presence of acute kidney injury is no longer valid, and the risk, injury, failure, loss of kidney function, and endstage kidney disease criteria is so 2005.
Acute tubular necrosis (ATN): An acute kidney injury due to an endogenous (tumor lysis syndrome, rhabdomyolysis, severe sepsis, hemolysis) or exogenous toxin (ethylene glycol, aminoglycoside, radiology contrast, certain chemotherapy), is known to cause ATN, or renal ischemia. This is more common in patients with hemorrhage shock or with hypotension in the setting of using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors.
Other precipitating causes, such as renal obstruction, profound hypovolemia, and other renal diseases (acute interstitial nephritis) are excluded. Creatinine elevation typically lasts over three days. While urine studies (urine microscopy, fractional excretion of sodium test) are strongly recommended, they are not required to make a presumptive diagnosis, especially if documented at the time of discharge in reasonable circumstances. References include Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney, 2-Volume Set and National Kidney Foundation Primer on Kidney Diseases (Sixth Edition).
Malnutrition: I remain a big fan of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition’s adult or pediatric malnutrition criteria. However, as I mentioned in my discussion of the Office of Inspector General’s scrutiny on Vidant in March, there’s no definitive definition of malnutrition that’s universally agreed on. But the whole facility needs to be on the same page about which definition to use.
Functional quadriplegia: The only definition for this is the 2017 ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting. Read it carefully; it does require that the term “functional quadriplegia” must be documented in the chart.
There are many more that we can discuss. A great medical librarian or physician advisor can help CDI professional identify articles to use and some payers will even help too. I believe that the best time to decide this is during contract negotiation. I suggest that you start down that path today.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in JustCoding. Dr. Kennedy is a general internist and certified coder, specializing in clinical effectiveness, medical informatics, and clinical documentation and coding improvement strategies. Contact him at jkennedy@cdimd.com. Opinions expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily represent HCPro, ACDIS, or any of its subsidiaries.
Copyright Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS).  Article reprinted with permission.