Healthcare organizations have been forced to stall many process improvement projects over the years due to lack of budget and resources. Enter the coronavirus. The realization quickly set in for HIM and revenue cycle departments that process improvements were the only way to succeed and survive.
I’m personally beyond proud of our country’s healthcare organizations for their ability to work remotely, embrace telehealth and create and cross-train a flexible workforce. It’s as if our industry just advanced 10 years in two months.
While the major focus was, and still is, on delivering patient care and stopping the spread of COVID-19, media coverage was certainly not on HIM departments. Processes, software applications, staffing strategies, quality standards and best practices were all being fine-tuned in the background. No longer from the hospital basement, the inner workings of medical records were silently being revised.
New COVID-19 patient encounters and tests had no existing codes. Rapidly increasing telemedicine encounters created new problems with expanded use in new patient encounters and the challenge of conducting the visit in a HIPAA-compliant manner. Many of these encounters were set up to be documented in the EHR or coded in the chargemaster. Billing systems, not recognizing these new encounters, created large numbers of edits that had to be reworked. Every week, new coding guidelines released by CMS and the AMA had to be adopted and incorporated into the coding process. Payors, experiencing the same issues, created huge numbers of denied claims. All of these issues fell on the shoulders of the HIM staff.
We’ve worked closely with clients since the beginning of the pandemic to understand the challenges that have been overcome, and the trends we see on the horizon as a result of COVID-19. Over the next month we will share examples of COVID-19’s legacy and the impact on HIM. Here’s what you can expect in our blog posts in the weeks to come:
- Creating a remote workforce
- Capturing documentation for telehealth visits
- Incorporating new coding guidelines
- Changes in patient type and patient volume
- HIM volunteer work and COVID-19
News and guidance on COVID-19 recovery and support