Charge capture in the BICU: Increasing revenue by improving documentation behaviors.

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Documentation by a healthcare provider is the key to capturing appropriate reimbursement for effort, expertize, and time given to patients. However, patient encounters are known to be under-coded; often describing a level of service that does not reflect the physician's labor. If there is deficient medical decision making (MDM) documentation, this will ultimately lead to a loss of revenue, as coders can only evaluate service levels from the documentation during the encounter. Physicians at the Timothy J. Harnar Regional Burn Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center were experiencing below-average reimbursement for work performed in the burn center and theorized that deficiencies in documentation (particularly in the area of MDM) were the cause. They hypothesized that poor documentation by physicians was resulting in a substantial proportion of encounters being compulsorily coded at inadequate and imprecise levels of service. To improve the service levels of MDM in physician documentation at the Burn Center and consequently, increase the numbers and levels of billable encounters in the unit with an accompanying increase in revenue, two resources were created and employed with the purpose of providing increased documentation recall and thoroughness. These resources included a pocket card, designed to prevent missed details when documenting patient encounters, and a standardized EMR template that was mandated to be used by all BICU medical professionals rotating through the unit. After completion of the intervention period (July - October 2021), a comparison was made between the 4-month periods of July-October 2019 and 2021. Based on the encounters provided by residents and one fellow assigned to the BICU medical director, inpatient subsequent visit codes showed an average increase in billable encounters of 1500% amid the compared periods. Upon implementation of the intervention, subsequent visit codes 99231, 99232, and 99233 (higher-numbered codes indicating an increased level of service and accompanying reimbursement) raised by 142%, 2158%, and 2200%, respectively. An additional finding since the implementation of the pocket card and revised template, billable encounters have replaced the once-dominate global encounter, 99024 (associated with no reimbursement); realizing an increase in billable inpatient services due to complete and thorough documentation of non-global issues patients experienced throughout their hospital stays. Obtaining buy-in from physicians proved a significant challenge; consistent training and feedback allowed for an improved understanding of billing and coding processes within the BICU. The described findings indicate that a focused effort to improve documentation offers a promising method to yield potentially significant improvements in a unit's profitability.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Surgery

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