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Hospital Coding Accuracy: Best Practices for Error-Free Claims

August 10, 2023

Hospital coding accuracy is a significant component of the claims process. It’s necessary for hospitals to ensure that they receive the correct reimbursement for their services. Best practices in hospital billing and coding processes are key to guiding coders as they navigate the complexities of chart documentation. These include staying up-to-date with coding changes, automating the claims management process, eliminating workflow inefficiencies, customizing claims edits, and upgrading record-keeping technology to maintain hospital billing and coding accuracy.

The Importance of Hospital Coding Accuracy in the Claims Process

One key factor affecting revenue cycle management and quality of care in the healthcare industry is hospital coding accuracy. This relates to how well the codes assigned to diagnoses and procedures match the actual services provided and the medical conditions of the patients. Accurate coding helps to ensure that providers get paid fairly and promptly for their services and that patients are not overbilled or undercovered. Accurate coding also helps to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the healthcare system and to support data analysis and research for improving health outcomes and policies.

coronis health group of hospital medical billers having a meeting

Many trends influence hospital coding accuracy in medical coding, such as:

  • Coding automation tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to assist human coders in assigning codes more efficiently and accurately.
  • Shortage of skilled hospital coders due to increasing complexity and volume of coding work and the demand for higher training and certification standards.
  • Transition to new ICD systems that have more codes and more specificity for diagnoses and treatments, requiring coders to update their knowledge and skills regularly.
  • Revision of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, changing the way providers are reimbursed for evaluation and management services, which affects coding and documentation requirements.
  • Implementation of coding apprenticeship programs that offer on-the-job training and mentoring for new coders helps address talent gaps and improve coding quality.

These hospital coding trends pose challenges and opportunities for hospital coders, who must adapt to changing demands and expectations of their profession. By staying updated on the latest coding standards, technologies, and best practices, hospital coders can enhance their career prospects and improve healthcare delivery and performance.

Common Errors in Hospital Coding and Their Impact on Claims

Hospital coding is prone to errors due to human error, lack of documentation, complex coding rules, and regulatory changes. These errors can significantly impact claims, resulting in denials, rejections, audits, penalties, and reduced revenue. 

  • Mismatched codes – codes that do not match the documentation or level of service provided, such as using a code for a complex procedure when a simple one was performed or using a code for a diagnosis not supported by the medical record.
  • Unbundling – when codes assigned are separated into individual components instead of using a single code that covers an entire service. Using separate codes for each step of a procedure instead of a code that includes all the steps results in unbundling errors.
  • Upcoding – codes assigned are higher than the actual service provided or the severity of the condition, such as a code for a severe diagnosis when a mild one was present or using a code for a longer hospital stay than what was actually needed.
  • Downcoding – an error in which codes assigned are lower than the actual service provided or the severity of the condition. A code used for a minor diagnosis when a serious one was present or using a code for a shorter hospital stay than what was actually needed is categorized as downcoding.

Enhancing Hospital Coding Accuracy: Key Strategies and Techniques

coronis health hospital medical workers rushing patient in stretcher to ER

Hospital coding errors can occur from lack of training, outdated guidelines, or human mistakes. Essential strategies and techniques can enhance hospital medical coding accuracy and reduce the risk of denials, audits, and penalties. Strategies and techniques to enhance accuracy include:

  • Providing regular education and feedback to coders on coding standards and best practices.
  • Using hospital coding software and tools that can automate, validate, and audit the coding process.
  • Implementing a robust quality assurance program that can monitor and measure coding performance and outcomes.
  • Establishing clear and consistent communication channels between coders, clinicians, and other stakeholders involved in the documentation and coding process.
  • Encouraging a culture of continuous improvement and innovation that can foster coding excellence and efficiency.

Hospital coding guidelines also encourage coders to stay current with the latest coding regulations and industry changes to ensure that all codes are accurate and up-to-date.

The Role of Technology in Improving Hospital Coding Accuracy

Technology can play a critical role in improving hospital coding accuracy by automating, streamlining, and enhancing the coding workflow. Some examples of technology that can help with hospital coding include:

  • Computer-assisted coding (CAC) or hospital coding software that uses natural language processing (NLP) to analyze clinical documentation and generate suggested codes allows coders to access and review clinical information in a single platform. 
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can learn from previous coding decisions and provide feedback and recommendations to coders.
  • Blockchain technology can create a secure and transparent ledger of coding transactions and prevent fraud and errors.

The Benefits of Error-Free Claims

Submitting error-free claims provides patient registration and cash flow and reduces claim rejections. Additionally, error-free claims may eliminate the risk of audits and investigations by insurance companies and government agencies. Overall, patient satisfaction improves by ensuring that claims are processed quickly and accurately.

Revenue Maximization and Compliance

Revenue integrity is the practice of translating patient experiences to revenue in a healthcare organization while avoiding revenue leakage or compliance issues. Revenue maximization starts with the front desk and the registration and enrollment process; additionally, other steps are necessary to improve revenue while complying with regulatory requirements and hospital policies.

coronis health surgeons operating on a patient in the hospital
  • Ensure staff are well trained and motivated for patient enrollment in appropriate insurance programs and collection of minimum visit payments. 
  • Monitor changes in payer mix and reimbursement rates. 
  • Employ certified and experienced coders.
  • Conduct regular audits and review to identify and correct errors or discrepancies.
  • Use top-of-the-line hospital coding software to automate and streamline your processes.
  • Communicate with physicians to ensure accurate and complete documentation of medical services.

By improving revenue cycle processes with these key guidelines, hospitals can strive to boost revenue while complying with government regulations.

Coronis Health and Hospital Coding

Hospital coding accuracy is essential for ensuring that claims submitted to payers are error-free and compliant with the latest regulations. By following best practices, your hospital and your patients can benefit from a streamlined coding process with the help of technology, expertise in coding, and reduced errors, denials, and claim rejections. Coronis Health has a team of dedicated experts in hospital medical coding revenue cycle management. To find out how you can integrate the best hospital billing and coding processes into your organization, contact Coronis Health for more information. 

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