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The Secret to Coding Accuracy Is In The Training Tools

Posted on September 24, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Scot Nemchik, Vice President of Coding Education and Auditing at Ciox.

Accurate coding has become more important to healthcare organizations and more critical to their bottom lines than ever before. While the traditional value of coding to an organization was simply in its effect on timely reimbursement, outside entities like IBM Watson Health and the U.S. News & World Report, among many others, are today utilizing the same broader organizational coding data to assess outcomes, provide company profiles, drive news, assign ratings and rankings, and determine value in the healthcare organizations they assess.

Because the impact of accurate coding in the modern era extends beyond reimbursement into reputation, perception, and new business development capabilities, it’s clear that the stakes have been raised for most organizations. With added importance assigned to coding accuracy, many of these companies are today assessing how to drive greater coding accuracy within their organization. Yet, the methodologies by which organizations assess new hires for coding capabilities, and by which they train and enhance their existing workforce, are largely unchanged in the last decade or more.

Coding is an industry that requires specialized skills, and so it is important for several reasons to make quality hires at the onset. It is far more profitable for an organization to retain its coders, which requires better upfront assessment. A study from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) on employee retention suggests that the cost to an organization in replacing an employee is between 50 and 75 percent of their salary. In an industry like medical coding, better screening measures must be in place to get the right people involved on the team the first time.

One of the primary ways companies can look to achieve better candidate hires is by moving away from simple multiple-choice assessments of coding skill during the screening process, as those assessments are not as predictive of coding aptitude as modern measures. A more effective approach is achieved through the use of platform-based assessment techniques, in which the candidate can respond to hypothetical medical reports with actual codes, providing more meaningful insight into coding aptitude.

Those same training platforms also serve as a solution for companies looking to bolster the accuracy of their existing coding teams. Traditionally, organizations have relied heavily on passive forms of training (e.g., webinars, LMS assignments) to convey important coding instruction, hoping that instruction is put into practice in the daily work settings. Today, through active, platform-based training, the results are far more scalable and effective.

Coders Learn by Coding

By training in an active coding learning environment, coders learn by doing, a proven method which accelerates learning and optimizes retention. Through a hands-on learning approach, coders can put their skills to the test and learn from any mistakes in real time.

Platform learning provides not only pre-hire testing, but also baseline performance assessment. By giving new hires and existing teams alike the same metric tests, organizations can identify their best assets. Additionally, platforms for coding training offer effective and efficient cross-training, allowing organizations to diversify the capabilities of their coders and cross-pollinate or backfill specific coding teams for more flexibility. Beyond cross training, existing teams benefit from the development of their assets through ongoing education. Coding is a dynamic field with annual changes, and access to the newest codes and guidelines is critical. A comprehensive learning platform offers all of these capabilities and measurements in real-time.

As companies look for ways to improve the accuracy of their coding staff, whether through new hires or incremental improvements to existing teams, transitioning to a platform-based training and assessment environment, with a host of experiential and measurement capabilities, can provide the solution.

About Ciox
Ciox, a health technology company and proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene, is dedicated to significantly improving U.S. health outcomes by transforming clinical data into actionable insights. Combined with an unmatched network offering ubiquitous access to healthcare data, Ciox’s expertise, relationships, technology and scale allow for the extraction of insights from structured and unstructured clinical data to create value for healthcare stakeholders. Through its HealthSource technology platform, which includes solutions for data acquisition, release of information, clinical coding, data abstraction, and analytics, Ciox helps clients securely and consistently solve the last mile challenges in clinical interoperability. Ciox improves data management and sharing by modernizing workflows and increasing the accuracy and flow of information, while providing transparency across the healthcare ecosystem and helping clients manage disparate medical records. Learn more at www.ciox.com

2019 CPT Codes To Cover Remote Monitoring And Digital Care Coordination

Posted on September 10, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The American Medical Association has released CPT code set changes 2019, and among them are some new options specific to digital health practices.

While providing such codes is a no-brainer — and if anything, the AMA is late to the party – it’s still a bit of noteworthy news, as it could have an impact on the progress of digital care.  After all, the new codes to make it easier to capture the value of some activities providers may be self-funding at present. They can also help physicians track the amount of time they spend on remote monitoring and digital care coordination more easily.

The 2019 release includes 335 changes to the existing code set, such as new and revised codes for adaptive behavior analysis, skin biopsy and central nervous system assessments. The new release also includes five new digital care-related codes.

The 2019 code set includes three new remote patient monitoring codes meant to capture how clinicians connect with patients at home and gather data from care management and coordination, and two new “interprofessional” Internet consult codes for reporting on care coordination discussions between a consulting physician and the treating physician

It’s good to see the AMA follow up with this issue. To date, there have been few effective ways to capture the benefits of interactive care online or even via email exchanges between physician and patient.

As a result, providers have been trapped in a vicious circle in which virtual care doesn’t get documented adequately, payers don’t reimburse because they don’t have the data needed to evaluate its effectiveness and providers don’t keep offering such services because they don’t get paid for performing them.

With the emergence of just five new CPT codes, however, things could begin to change for the better. For example, if physicians are getting paid to consult digitally with their peers on patient care, that gives vendors incentives to support these activities with better technology. This, in turn, can produce better results. Now we’re talking about a virtuous circle instead.

Obviously, it will take a lot more codes to document virtual care processes adequately. The introduction of these five new codes represents a very tentative first step at best. Still, it’s good to see the AMA avoid the chicken-and egg-problem and simply begin to lay the tracks for better-documented digital care. We’ve got to start somewhere.

 

3 Types of Medical Billing Companies

Posted on August 31, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was recently talking with the CEO of an EHR vendor. As we talked about their EHR software and what they were working on in the future, the CEO made a really important comment. He said, “The EHR can be great, but if you don’t take care of the medical billing the right way then none of that matter.”

This was such an important point and one that I’d seen first hand. An OB/GYN friend of mine had an EHR that they loved. As the doctor, she loved it for her clinical work. The problem was that it wasn’t tied to a great practice management system. So, she was having issues with her billing. The problem was so bad that she ended up leaving the EHR she loved clinically to find something that would solve her billing problems. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of medical billing.

I recently came across an article on the Kareo blog which highlighted 3 levels of medical billing and RCM (revenue cycle management) services billing companies can offer a practice:

Light

Level of service offered by many billing software vendors.

Full-Service

Level of service offered by some software vendors and most traditional billing services.

Boutique

Level of service typically offered by smaller “mom and pop” billing companies who have expertise in a limited number of specialties and/or provide more oversight.

As you evaluate medical billing companies for your practice, this is a nice framework for evaluating the various medical billing companies that are out there. Each one provides a different set of expertises to help your practice. Understanding that difference is key to choosing one that will work best for you.

What’s been your experience with medical billing companies? Do these 3 types make sense to you or would you look at them from a different angle?

DrChrono App Store Illustrates Important Point

Posted on July 16, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In a recent post, my colleague John Lynn argued that EHRs won’t survive if they stick to a centralized model.  He contends — I think correctly — that ambulatory practices will need to plug best-of-class apps into their EHR system rather than accepting whatever their vendor has available. If they don’t create a flexible infrastructure, they’ll be forced to switch systems when they hit the wall with their current EHR, he writes.

Demonstrating that John, as usual, has read the writing on the wall correctly, I present you with the following. I think it illustrates John’s point exactly. I’m pointing to EHR vendor DrChrono, which just announced that billing and collections company Collectly would be available for use.

Like its peers, Collectly built on the DrChrono API, and will be available in the DrChrono App Directory on a subscription basis. (The billing company also offers custom pricing for large organizations.)

Other apps featured in the app directory include Calibrater Health, which offers text-based patient surveys; Staple Health, a machine learning platform that providers can use to manage at-risk patients and Genius Video, which sends personalized video via text message to educate patients. Payment services vendor Square is also a featured partner.

Collectly, for its part, digitizes paper bills and sends billing statements and collection notices to patients via text or email. The patient messages include a link to the patient portal which offers a billing FAQ, benefits and insurance info and a live chat feature where experts offer info on patient insurance features and payment policy. The live chat staffers can also help patients create an approved payment schedule on behalf of a practice.

While some of the DrChrono apps offer help with well-understood back-office issues – such as Health eFilings, which help practices submit accurate MIPS data –  those functions may be duplicated or at least partially available elsewhere. However, apps like Collectly offer options that EHRs and practice management platforms seldom do. The number of best of breed apps that an EHR won’t be able to replicate natively is going to continue to increase.

Integrating consumer-facing apps like this acknowledges that neither medical practice technology nor its staff is terribly well-equipped to bring in the cash from patients. It may take outside apps like Collectly, which functions like an RCM tool but talks like a patient, to bring in more patient payments in for DrChrono’s customers. In other words, it took a decentralized model to get this done. John called it.

Medical Practice Use Of Automated Claims Options Growing Slowly

Posted on June 25, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new study by a healthcare industry group has concluded that medical and dental practices are processing claims manually rather than going for full automation, a trend which is robbing the industry of very high levels of potential savings. While many physicians and dentists are using web portals to process claims, in most cases they haven’t reached the ”set it and forget it” level, a trend which could undercut possible savings.

The group, CAQH, tracks health plan and healthcare provider adoption of electronically-based administrative transactions for medical and dental practices. CAQH’s research estimates the time required for providers administrative transactions, including verifying a patient’s insurance coverage, sending and receiving payments, checking on the status of claims and handling prior authorization processes.

Its research concluded that despite the potential rewards, the medical and dental practices made only a modest level of progress in automating claims and related business processes over the past year. According to CAQH calculations, practices are still leaving roughly $11.1 billion in savings on the table, an estimate which has climbed by $1.8 billion over the prior year.

If these savings are realized, the majority ($9.5 billion) would end up in providers’ hands. However, many practices just haven’t gotten there yet.

A rise in portal use is certainly an improvement over paper-based claims processes. In fact, some of the increase in potential savings noted by the study is being created by a rise in online portal use.

However, providers’ adoption of fully-electronic claims is basically growing only a small amount or even declining for most transactions that can be done via a portal. For example, for prior authorizations, a big increase in portal use correlated with the decline in the adoption of fully-electronic transactions.

For CAQH, the endgame is getting all providers to automate claims processes complete, so the modest to flat growth in automated claims transactions is not exactly good news. In fact, it’s not a winning situation for medical practices either. According to the group’s estimates, each manual transaction costs practices $4.40 more than each electronic transaction and eats up five more minutes of provider time, which can create a real drag on profits.

Meanwhile, processing a single claim electronically through its lifecycle would save medical practices almost 40 minutes on average, and more than $15 in direct cost savings. Meanwhile, processing a single dental claim from start to finish could save dental practices almost 30 minutes on average and almost $11.75.

The CAQH press release doesn’t spell out what’s holding dentists and doctors back from automating the claims process completely, but it’s not hard to guess was going on. Unlike some providers, medical and dental practices typically don’t have deep pockets or large staff they can make this transition. If health plans want these providers to get on board, they’ll probably have to help them make the transition. However, even health plans haven’t invested in automated claims processing enough either.

The Bad and the Ugly of Prior Authorization and How Technology Will Fix It

Posted on May 16, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Karen Tirozzi, VP of Solutions, ZappRx.

Specialty drugs, which are usually defined by their complex instructions, special handling requirements or delivery mechanisms, are typically priced much higher than traditional drugs and cost more than the average American family’s salary. These medications are priced higher for a variety of reasons such as manufacturing costs, smaller patient populations and patient services like IV administration or at-home care required to support patients who will take these medicines.

Due to the costly nature of these treatments, payers insist on a comprehensive prior authorization (PA) process to ensure qualified patients are receiving the medications they need. The PA process involves cumbersome paperwork and fax machines and are a huge burden to physician’s and their staff. Physicians have even resorted to hiring extra, dedicated staff just to process these prescriptions as nurses, NP’s, PA’s and medical assistants tend to fall victim to the prior authorization nightmare. According to a recent study, it is estimated that $85,276 was spent on personnel costs to address billing and insurance issues associated with prior authorization, which is approximately 10 percent of practice revenue.

To put just how inefficient the PA process into perspective, a recent AMA survey of 1,000 physicians providing 20 or more hours of care a week, showed that doctors receive an average of 37 PA requests a week, which took an average of 16.4 hours to process. Extrapolate 16.4 hours a week over a year and clinicians are spending around 41% of their time annually doing paperwork, making calls and or sending faxes just to navigate PA and get medications to their patients. It includes enrollment forms and signatures from the patient, which can be done while the patient is in the office, however, it’s often done through mail, which slows down the process even more. Providers also have trouble ensuring they have the right forms for the insurer’s preferred specialty pharmacy, as sending to the wrong pharmacy also causes delays. Providers are tangled in faxes and phone calls for weeks on end so that all parties have all the information they need to approve just one prescription. In 2018, how is it that the medical community still heavily relies on fax machines to process information and deliver life-saving drugs to patients.

A Brighter Future

Digitizing the entire prior authorization process will significantly reduce the administrative burden on clinicians and get patients their medications in a much more streamlined manner. Healthcare providers should be able to, in one place, order a specialty prescription, see the paperwork and signatures needed and follow its progress until it reaches the patient’s hands. The healthcare industry needs to start utilizing the technology available today to streamline workflows and decrease operational expenses, which in turn, can help save patients’ lives.

By embracing technology, clinicians can also leverage the rich data sets generated to better understand their patients’ needs, trends within the space they’re treating and ultimately, improve patient care. Data can also be used by pharmacies to understand how their medications are trending within the market and catch any snags that may cause delays. The potential for pharma companies to use this level of information to provide insights and improve products in real-time is invaluable.

Let’s take the next step

Inherently risk adverse and with siloed stakeholders, healthcare must begin taking steps toward change. With what the space has at its disposal from a next-generation technology standpoint, there is no excuse to remain chained to the fax machine.

The good news? Providers, pharmacists and biopharma have options to improve this cumbersome process today. Forward thinking innovators are beginning to break down silos and uncover new methods with technology to streamline the prior authorization process and get patients their specialty medications in days, not weeks.

About Karen Tirozzi
ZappRx Vice President, Solutions, Karen Tirozzi, leads a fast growing team that is focused on transforming the specialty pharmaceutical prescribing process. With a focus on client success, Karen and her team are innovating technologies to automate traditionally manual and cumbersome processes in an effort to save clinicians time and resources, and deliver lifesaving drugs to patients in a timely manner.  Having spent more than 15 years in the industry, Karen’s unique background in HIT and clinical social work serve as the basis for her ability to deliver successful programs in highly disruptive healthcare services and IT companies.

RCM Tips & Tricks: Shortening Length of Claims In Accounts Receivable

Posted on December 21, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

There’s little question that health insurers do little to help your medical practice collect the reimbursement you’re due.  Not only that, ongoing changes in federal laws make improving your collections levels even more difficult.

As a result, physician practices need all the help they can get in shortening the days claims spend in Accounts Receivable, including the seemingly obvious challenge of collecting payment in full from payers, which don’t even honor rates set forth in reimbursement contracts in some cases.

Given these challenges, medical groups need all the help they can get in improving A/R. Here are some tips from medicalbillersandcoders.com:

  • Find claims which might be rejected ahead of time before submitting them to payers. Claims not paid when first submitted are far less likely to ever get paid.
  • Identify such claims using software that can track and respond to rules and regulation changes by payers. This software should also take into account the rate of denials by a given payer for all doctors.
  • Use software (such as practice management tools) to track all payments, and make sure that your practice is paid based on the terms the payer has agreed upon. Insurers pay less than promised for roughly 10% of claims.
  • Create a detailed system to address the aging of receivables, then track those claims by payer, as various payers might have different payment schedules and different procedures for addressing late reimbursement.
  • Make sure you follow up on unpaid claims as quickly as possible, as the sooner your practice follows up with health insurers the more likely you’ll get paid, and the less likely the claim will end up lost or ignored.
  • Using electronic tools, see to it that your A/R workflow is efficient, or your group may endure errors in documentation which slow down reimbursement. Practice management software can be helpful in addressing this problem.

Practices with a large budget may be able to invest in sophisticated, expensive tools which can perform in-depth claims analysis. This can help such practices improve time in A/R for claims.

However, if your practice is smaller and its budget can’t absorb high-end analytical tools, you can still improve your collections by being thorough and having a good workflow in place.

Also, it’s smart to make sure everyone on your staff is aware of your A/R goals. Even if they don’t have direct contact with collections or A/R, they can be the eyes and ears which help the process along.

Increasingly, Physician Practices Paying Fees To Receive Electronic Payments

Posted on October 13, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Virtually no one would argue that health plan reimbursement levels are particularly high. Adding a fee if they want to get paid electronically seems like adding insult to injury, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, one in six medical practices report being hit with these charges, according to research by the Medical Group Management Association. Its recent survey found that some practices are paying a meaningful percentage of total medical services payments to get paid via Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).

Under rules created by the Affordable Care Act, designed to decrease healthcare administrative overhead, CMS created a standard for EFT transactions. Health plans have been required to offer EFT payments if providers request it since 2014.

Health plans’ payment policies seem to vary, however. A recent MGMA Stat poll, which generated responses from more than 900 medical practice leaders, found that while 50% of practices were not paying fees for receiving payments via EFT, others are absorbing big surcharges.

For one thing, health plans are increasingly offering practices a “virtual credit card” they can use to receive payments. While 32% of MGMA respondents said they weren’t sure whether they paid an electronic payments fee or not, other research suggests that many practices end up using virtual credit cards without knowing they would be charged 3-5% per payment received.

Meanwhile, 17% of respondents told MGMA they were definitely paying transaction fees, and of that group, almost 60% said that the health plans in question used a third-party payment vendor.

MGMA sees this as little short of highway robbery. “Some bad actors are fleecing physician groups by charging them to simply receive an electronic paycheck,” said Anders Gilberg, MGMA’s senior vice president for government affairs.

The MGMA is asking CMS to issue guidance preventing health plans and payment vendors from charging EFT-related fees. The group argues that such fees are counter to the goal of reducing healthcare administrative complexity, the stated purpose of requiring health plans to offer EFT payments.

Also, the American Hospital Association and NACHA, the electronic payments association, are asking CMS to set standards on when and how health plans can implement virtual cards, as well as making it easy for practices to move to EFT.

The imposition of fees is particularly unfair given that health plans benefit significantly from issuing EFT payments, the group says. For one thing, health insurers save millions of dollars by sending payments via EFT, MGMA notes. Not only that, sending payments via EFT allows health plans to automate the re-association of electronic payments with the Electronic Remittance Advice.

While it’s true that physician practices used to save time staff would’ve used to manually process and deposit paper checks, that doesn’t make the fees okay, the group argues. “Beyond the material administrative time savings for all sides, the time and resources that physician practices spend on billing and related tasks are better spent delivering healthcare to patients,” it said in a prepared statement.

There’s a New Medicare ID Coming in April – CMS Dumps SSN

Posted on September 26, 2017 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of EHRSelector.com.For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

Following a 2015 Congressional directive, CMS is abandoning its Social Security based Medicare ID for a new randomly generated one. The new card will be hitting beneficiary’s mailboxes in April with everyone covered by a year later.

The old ID is a SSN plus one letter. The letter says if you are a beneficiary, child, widow, etc. The new will have both letters and numbers. It is wholly random and drops the coding for beneficiary, etc. Fortunately, it will exclude S, L, O, I, B and Z, which can look like numbers. You can see the new ID’s details here.

                           New Medicare ID Card

Claimants will have until 2020 to adopt the new IDs, but that’s not the half of it. For the HIT world, this means many difficult, expensive and time consuming changes. CMS sees this as a change in how it tracks claims. However, its impact may make HIT managers wish for the calm and quiet days of Y2K. That’s because adopting the new number for claims is just the start. Their systems use the Medicare ID as a key field for just about everything they do involving Medicare. This means they’ll not only have to cross walk to the new number, but also their systems will have to look back at what was done under the old.

Ideally, beneficiaries will only have to know their new number. Realistically, every practice they see over the next several years will want both IDs. This will add one more iteration to patient matching, which is daunting enough.

With MACRA Congress made a strong case for Medicare no longer relying on SSNs for both privacy and security reasons. Where it failed was seeing it only as a CMS problem and not as a HIT problem with many twists and turns.

Very Little Manual Entry in EHR

Posted on September 20, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This is some fascinating data on how much of a doctor’s EHR note is entered manually versus some other automated method. I honestly wouldn’t have guessed that only 18% of the doctor’s EHR note was being entered manually. Although, from the doctor’s perspective, they still see a copied section of note as something they largely entered manually since a good doctor that copies something into the note generally also reviews it to make sure that it’s accurate for the patient they’re seeing.

What’s ironic is that every doctor I know would love for their note to be 100% automated so that they didn’t have to create any clinical note. In fact, that’s kind of what I outline in the perfect EHR workflow – Video EHR. Doctors would love to just see and interact with patients and have the EHR documentation be completely automated so they could just reference it as needed. Sadly, we’re not there yet. Not even close.

Plus, the critics of this type of automation would argue that automatic note creation will take (many aptly argue that it already has taken) the life and soul out of a note. They appropriately suggest that these auto-generated EHR notes are impossible to effectively read and have ruined patient notes. What used to be an elegantly written (although often illegible) note has now become an auto-generated mess of a note which makes it hard to find the relevant findings, issues, and treatment plan.

Except for a few rare exceptions, these critics are spot on in their analysis of the EHR note. The problem with these criticisms is that it’s not the automation which is making these notes useless. It was the automation’s focus on billing which has made these notes useless. In order to satisfy higher levels of billing, the Jabba the Hutt EHR note was created and is still thriving in healthcare today. Now we’re seeing organizations doing machine learning on this ugly billing notes to try and make the notes useful for patient care.

The difference between a note designed around patient care and one designed for billing is shocking.

What we need to realize is that automated notes don’t have to mean lower quality notes. However, improved patient care has to be the goal of the automated notes and not billing if we want to achieve that vision.

It’s not clear to me if many EHR vendors can achieve both visions of a quality billing note and a note designed around patient care or if it will require a new approach to documenting patient visits to achieve both goals. I have no doubt EHR vendors are going to try to do both. The problem is that most of them already tell themselves that they have a great clinical note that improves care. That attitude is preventing changes to the note that would make them more effective clinically.

I’m all for more automation in healthcare and particularly in doctor’s note creation. Every doctor I know wants to stop being a data entry clerk and spend more time being a doctor. However, we need to rethink our approach to automated note creation so it does more than effectively bill for services. Seems obvious, but I assure you that’s a dramatic change in mindset for many EHR organizations.