Hospital coding occupies one of the most meticulous parts of the healthcare revenue cycle. When done accurately, it ensures survival in today’s value-based models where financial incentives are tied to quality of care.

Coding professionals help organizations achieve sustainable results in quality and reimbursement. They help to improve outcomes data and provide a defense for regulatory compliance reviews. 

Unsurprisingly, coding has a significant impact on revenue cycle health – even more so now as we continue to battle COVID-19. Guidance continues to evolve, so it’s crucial for your team to be ready in time to reach new heights next year.

With Halloween right around the corner, we decided to take a look at 5 tricks and treats to enhance your organization’s best coding practices. 

skeleton going trick or treating

#1) Don’t underestimate the importance of technology

We all know that tech is driving innovation in healthcare. This includes the work of coding professionals, as they are essential components of a team who serve as “guardians of the data.”

Consider the wave of technology issues created by the pandemic. Leveraging electronic medical records, tackling telehealth as well as COVID-19 testing and treatment, and learning new coding guidelines from CMS and AMA were significant challenges to the coding process. These responsibilities hinged on embracing technology and adapting it for unprecedented circumstances.

Another technological tool in the coder’s toolbox is computer-assisted coding (CAC). This solution “streamlines coding and eliminates bottlenecks, transforming coders into higher-level coding auditors.” It can also provide impactful information to those on the CDI team, another crucial part of the data guardian team. However, it must be used properly; otherwise the technology perpetuates poor work being processed faster.

As the market changes to adapt to the new normal, the technologies leveraged to solve new problems may impact coding regulations and rules. Understanding those nuances will be important for all coding professionals.

#2) Embrace audits

Audits are incredible opportunities to recapture lost revenue, prevent soft denials, and discover issues with workflows and more. While internal audits are valuable, bringing in outsourced team members with their own professional expertise and a neutral point of view initiates that extra step to minimize errors to maximize revenue.

Organizations that understand how statistically valid sample sizes impact audit results are better prepared to implement that many data points and can gleam through chart reviews. Root cause analysis and education can expedite return on investment significantly.

Also, not capturing opportunities because of an inefficient sample size has exponential consequences.

skeleton going to work

#3) Connect with your remote team

These days, most coding is done outside facility walls. While these remote staff members work hard, it may be easy for them to feel disconnected and undervalued.

Take time for team building exercises and other ways to connect professionally and personally so that everyone can feel authentically engaged. Find ways to connect them with other team members who they may not interact with frequently to build solidarity. 

#4) Create open communication channels

Information silos are all too common in healthcare. The result is that important information may not be exchanged between clinical and non-clinical teams as often as needed. 

It’s important to understand results from audits, changes to processes, introductions to initiatives, and other news impacting coding. Such updates should be shared and discussed with all teams. This especially includes clinicians, as they are the ones documenting the clinical encounters that must be accurately coded for reimbursement.

#5) Invest in education

Medical coding is consistently changing. With new things to learn seemingly every week, it’s easy for even the most talented team members to miss or to misunderstand the latest updates. 

To amp up your team’s approach to keeping up, invest in tools such as exam preparation, webinars, coding association memberships, and education groups. When your team members have the tools needed to stay up to date on this evolving profession, they’ll be better prepared to tackle major changes as they occur.

Unwrapping your team’s best practices 

Adopting quality coding practices for your organization takes time. Even with seasoned coders in place, updates to guidance, additions to the team, and changes to organizational needs will likely prompt the need to update your approach. 

Before you make the next update, remember your team members put tricks of the coding craft to work day in and day out to keep your facility stable. Give them the treat of celebrating their accomplishments both publicly and privately. Empower them as the leaders they are so they can provide their insights and strengths to guide you to new heights next year.

team of skeletons at work

At Harmony Healthcare, our goal is simple: to help healthcare professionals and organizations move past their limitations, empower them to create change, and make more success achievable.

That’s the promise we make to our clients and our consultants.

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