As a medical coder or coding manager, knowledge of CPT and ICD-10 codes is your second nature. Having mastered that level of expertise, now is the time to:
- Improve your coding efficiency, throughput, and accuracy
- Minimize risk to yourself and your organization
- Maximize value and income
However, revamping coding practices can be a daunting task if you’re not quite sure where to start. While initiating change is certainly not simple, LightSpeed offers five ground rules to quickly turn your procedures around and reap the benefits of an efficient coding process.
- Streamline your workflow. Medical coders and medical coding managers deal with a mountain of medical documentation and other data related to patient visits. Depending on specialty, this could include hundreds of pages of medical documentation per visit. It is imperative to have an organized, streamlined method of accessing visit documentation, where anyone can easily find critical fields such as ICD-10 and CPT information, and efficiently code through the visit.
- Quickly handle incomplete documentation. A medical record cannot be coded if critical components are missing, if it is not signed, or is otherwise incomplete. Have a solid plan in place for communicating with your physicians, mid-levels, and other providers when you encounter an incomplete chart. Leave space in your workflow to put incomplete records aside and move on to other charts while the deficiency is corrected. Keeping a constant workflow, even when errors are encountered, is essential to maximizing coding efficiency.
- Organize your work. Organize work by facility, provider, insurance carrier, and other relevant categories to avoid “switching costs.” In this context, switching cost refers to the mental cost of a midstream shift from one type of work to another. Having to reorganize your thought and pattern processes requires more time and kills productivity. Avoid switching costs by grouping your work into like queues, working completely through each queue before moving on to the next.
- Conduct audits—top priority. Every medical coder is subject to making a mistake or missing a detail. Create a plan to identify coding issues before sending work to a billing or clearinghouse system. Catching issues on the front end is much less costly than dealing with a denial. In addition, have a system in place for pulling a percentage of charts for an audit. This percentage may run from 1 percent to 100 percent depending on factors such as experience level, risk, MPIS, ICD-10, CPT, insurance types, and more. An audit process is also useful for educating medical coders so that mistakes are not repeated. Be sure to keep track of all audit outcomes to be used for training, evaluation, and improvement tracking.
- Understand your bottlenecks. Artificial and real bottlenecks will occur in revenue cycle management workflows. These may be tied to delays in obtaining physician documentation to be coded, difficulty in performing particular types of medical coding, or any number of other factors. For instance, coding a one-page anesthesia visit is much simpler than coding a 260-page hospitalist medicine visit. Plan your medical coding workforce and price your services accordingly. In the long run, setting attainable goals for your coding clients will benefit all involved.
In short, planning, organization, and efficiency are paramount when it comes to creating the most value within your coding company. While understanding ICD-10 and CPT codes is important, the ability to maintain a steady workflow and react quickly to errors helps minimize risk and maximize value.
Keep the five rules in mind as you begin to code your next chart, and you’ll be well on your way to a more profitable future in coding.
Click here to learn how LightSpeed helped a client improve their capture, management, and storage of patient records.