2. MASTER THE TWO-MIDNIGHT RULE.
If you expect that a Medicare Part A patient will require two or more midnights in the hospital, document it in the history and physical along with supporting clinical reasoning and sign an inpatient order. If the patient is discharged prior to the second midnight, document the reason in the progress notes and the discharge summary (for example, death, transfer to another hospital, departure against medical advice, faster than expected clinical improvement, or election of hospice in lieu of continued treatment in the hospital). Remember that Medicare Advantage plans may not follow the Two-Midnight rule and instead may use MCG guidelines, InterQual®, or internal criteria.
3. KNOW “SLAM DUNK” MCG CRITERIA FOR TOP DIAGNOSES.
Most large private payers utilize MCG guidelines to determine medical necessity for hospital admissions. Those guidelines are complex and change every year, and it is not required for hospitalists to know them all. However, it might help to remember a few key inpatient admission criteria for the top 5 to 10 diagnoses, such as:
- First episode of heart failure without prior history.
- Upper gastrointestinal bleeding with liver cirrhosis, syncope, or orthostatic hypotension.
- Pneumonia with documented hypoxia, outpatient treatment failure, pneumonia severity index (PSI) class 4 or 5, or CURB-65 score of 3 or greater.
- Cellulitis with outpatient treatment failure or high-risk comorbid conditions (cirrhosis, symptomatic heart failure, immunosuppression, or HbA1c greater than 10%).
4. EACH DAY, DEFEND WHY THE PATIENT NEEDS TO BE IN THE HOSPITAL.
Don’t let your progress notes be swallowed by a “copy-forward” monster and instead provide daily updates, such as:
- Up-to-date clinical status and response to interventions (for example, oxygenation or pain level).
- Updated plan of care: current interventions, additional diagnostic workup, or changes to the intensity of care (for example, increased intravenous pain medication dose or frequency).
- Why the patient cannot be safely discharged to a lower level of care (for example, a skilled nursing facility or home).
5. WORK WITH YOUR UTILIZATION REVIEW NURSES AND PHYSICIAN ADVISORS.
In the end, the two most powerful tools in combating clinical denials for hospital services are good medicine and clear documentation. Armed with an understanding of health care reimbursement and denial prevention, hospitalists can help their hospitals prevent unnecessary clinical denials and receive the reimbursements they deserve.”
Dr. Farah is a hospitalist, physician advisor, and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. She is a performance improvement consultant based in Corvallis, Ore., and a member of The Hospitalist’s editorial advisory board.
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