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The Intersection of EMRs and Health Information Management

Posted on July 26, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

It was with great regret that I canceled my trip to Healthport’s first HIM Educational Summit earlier this week. (A rampant stomach bug claimed me as the last victim in our family of four, and so I thought my healthcare conference colleagues would, in fact, appreciate my absence.) I had been scheduled to moderate a discussion on the exchange of personal health information within an accountable care organization (ACO) – a topic that I thought I knew a lot about, until I began researching the subject. Turns out that to truly grasp this topic from a health information management (HIM) perspective, you need to be well versed in the current state of ACOs, Office of Civil Rights audits, HIPAA rules and regulations, privacy and security breach prevention strategies, the bring-your-own-device movement …. Needless to say, HIM professionals seem to have their hands full at the moment, as they will likely interact with a few if not all of the aforementioned areas in the coming months.

I especially had been eager to see if this cartoon from Imprivata got a few chuckles from my audience. Pretty timely, no?

Courtesy of Imprivata

I was also looking forward to attending a number of sessions, including:
“The Effects of EHR on HIM”
“Where HIM & MU Intersect, and What’s in it for You”
“Meaningful Use: Countdown to Attestation”
“Is Your PHI Protected? Security Measures you Need to Know About”
“The Brave New World of HIEs”

In prepping for the event, I came across a great list of “The Top 10 Trends Impacting HIM in 2016.” Note that EHR and related technologies top the list. I guess it’s safe to say that concerns around them aren’t going away any time soon.

Courtesy of Precyse

I’d love to have readers weigh in on what relationship HIM professionals have with their EMR counterparts in the hospital setting. How do they impact your workflow? Is Meaningful Use making your lives easier or harder? And how in the world are you going to find the time to worry about 2016, when it seems you’ve got enough on your plate in 2012?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Most Doctors Manually Code Despite EHR Automated Coding

Posted on July 17, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Pamela Lewis Dolan has a great article in AMA’s American Medical news about the automated E&M coding using an EHR versus manual E&M coding. Here’s a quote which sums up the article:

The Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology asked the Office of the Inspector General to prepare a report looking at how Medicare physicians use EHRs to assign and document codes for E&M services. The report found that 57% of Medicare physicians use an EHR, and 90% of them use their systems to document E&M services. But most physicians still assign those codes manually, which could mean they are undercoding services that could qualify for a higher pay rate.

I’ve started seeing more and more people talk about this subject. It’s an amazing switch since one of the initial selling points of EHR software was this powerful E&M engine which would help them to ensure that they’re coding their office visits properly. In fact, many argued that with an EHR they were able to code at much higher levels than they could on paper.

In some ways, I think this can still the case if done right. The rationale is that many times a doctor would evaluate something on a patient, but not take the time to document it in the paper chart. Since they didn’t document it on the paper chart they couldn’t code for it. I’ve heard doctors say that thanks to quality EHR templates they’ve been able to document more of those “extra” items and so they can properly justify the higher code.

Obviously there are a lot of questions and risks associated with what I describe above. The most important being that many achieved the above result by using blanket templates which even included things that they never actually evaluated. There is a lot of talk about these blanket templates being a high risk during an audit.

Although, what I think the above quote highlights is something that I’ve seen regularly in healthcare. Many doctors are chronic under coders. I think this other quote from the article linked above explains why many doctors under code:

“If you do a cost-benefit analysis, it might be less expensive to undercode than try to deal with an investigation,” she said. But Fenton has found that there doesn’t have to be a large increase in coding levels to see a significant bump in revenue.

I’m sure there are many reasons that doctors under code, but this could be the largest one: fear. The fear of an audit uncovering over coding is real and palpable. Plus, an EHR automated E&M coding engine doesn’t solve this problem for a physician. At the end of the day the physician is still responsible for the coding, not the EHR software.