Clinical documentation improvement (CDI) specialists, in theory, bridge the gap between physicians and coders. However, CDI and coding teams are often educated separately and work apart from each other.
All of us in ICD-10-CM/PCS coding compliance are facing a tsunami of denials from payers, Recovery Auditors, 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 documented condition.
One of the primary difficulties in achieving uniformity of code assignment is that, in some circumstances, selecting the principal diagnosis is believed to be up to the individual coder or CDI specialist. Let’s take a closer look at the 2017 ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting to understand whether this is really the case.
Alcohol, as a legal substance for those 21 and older, is commonly seen as more benign than illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine. However, alcohol can also physically harm the body in many ways. In ICD-10-CM, the categories related to alcohol fall under category F10.- (alcohol-related disorders).
Coding Clinic for ICD-10-CM/PCS , First Quarter 2017, which became effective March 15, provides interesting perspectives that may be useful in our deliberations with payers or Recovery Auditors. Let’s process some of its guidance.
Providers often document “global developmental delay” in pediatric charts. The phrase is used to describe when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children the same age, such as walking or talking. Children with conditions such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy may also have a global developmental delay.
Queries are definitely not what they used to be. When I first started as a CDI specialist, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the query process was a muddy exercise in creative writing. CDI specialists wrote all kinds of crazy things in order to get physicians to answer a query. Then in 2001 came the first AHIMA practice brief, “Developing a Physician Query Process,” which gave order and standards to the query process.
Long before ICD-10 became a focus, working as a clinical documentation improvement manager with physicians to improve their progress and/or operative notes was a challenge—doctors either got it or they didn’t. But as the transition from paper charts to an electronic medical record began, providers started to understand how to better document their visits, since they had to choose from drop-down menus and multiple options to complete their notes.
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.