Use Metrics to Identify Documentation and Coding Errors

Use Metrics to Identify Documentation and Coding Errors

I am the leader of a hospitalist group. We have a number of recent graduates in our group, and I have a feeling that not everyone is billing correctly. Do you have any suggestions on how I can remedy this problem?

D. Perman, MD, Augusta, Ga.

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Dr. Hospitalist responds:

I would not be surprised if your suspicions are correct. Unfortunately, many young physicians do not have a firm grasp on the rules and regulations surrounding coding and documentation. But before you set out to find a remedy, you need to identify and understand the problem.

I suggest you start by collecting data. This is easily done by involving your administrative staff and billing service. Create individual and group dashboards to help you and the individual physicians examine the data. Determine whether the doctors in your group are submitting a bill with each clinical encounter. Measure the number of days between the date of service and the date they submit the bill. Create metrics and put them on the dashboard. For example, one could measure bills submitted divided by clinical encounters; another would calculate the percent of bills submitted within 72 hours of the service date.

Next, look at the individual and group code distributions. Assuming that all members of your group have a similar job description and see the same groups of patients, the code distribution should be similar. For example, the percentage of Level 3, Level 2, and Level 1 initial admission codes should be similar among all members of your group. A disparity would suggest that one or more physicians is not documenting and coding correctly.

Use your dashboard to compare individual and group distribution. In my group, I provide each physician with the metrics on their personal distribution of codes for the fiscal year, along with their distribution of codes from previous years. When I do this, I also provide each physician with our group’s distribution of codes for the current as well as previous years. This allows individual physicians to compare historical trends for themselves and the entire group. I do not share individual data with others in the group.

Lastly, provide the distribution of codes for internal-medicine physicians from Medicare. This information is available at It is important to note that I am not holding up the Medicare data or our group data as the standard; it is merely a reflection of how other internists in our group and across the country are billing.

This data is intended to supplement, not replace, our annual training on documentation, coding, and compliance. I have found that pushing this data to our physicians has helped them understand the importance of creating a system to ensure that all bills are submitted and coded appropriately to the level of service and documentation. TH


Bryan Huang, MD, and Mona Patel, DO, were the primary authors of “Transition Time” (June 2009, p. 16). Dr. Huang is assistant clinical professor in the department of hospital medicine at the University of California at San Diego’s Department of Medicine. Dr. Patel is associate director of hospitalist services at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at State University of New York at Brooklyn. Bijo Chacko, MD, FHM, former chair of SHM’s Young Physicians Committee, was a contributing author. TH

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