Three New Year’s Resolutions—Coding resolutions that is

Forget the gym, dropping white bread from your diet and forgoing that second glass of wine.  Instead, resolve to improve your coding knowledge and the accuracy of claims you submit in your practice.  Achieving these resolutions will bring certain rewards.

Update your charge documents:  Whether a paper encounter form or charge system within the EMR, review and update.  This advice is as well worn and ignored as “eating more fruits and vegetables.”  But this year, plan two-to-four hours (more for multi-specialty, primary care and general surgery) to review all of the codes and descriptions.  Often, the code is active and valid but the description is misleading or wrong.  Beware abbreviations!  Avoid abridged descriptions!  Your charge document within an EMR or on paper should show full code descriptions and the code.  Don’t use “cryo” which could be codes 17340, 17000, 17110 to name a few of the valid procedures performed using cyrotherapy.

Follow coding and practice management experts on Twitter:  This may sound like an odd place for definitive coding and practice management information, but the brief tweets often link to informative articles.  You can follow me @BetsyNicoletti, of course.  I follow Susan Keane  Baker @Susankb, Kathy McCoy @kathymccoy, the AMA news @amednews, CMS @CMSGov and MGMA @MGMA to name a few.  Or, sign up for a few well selected coding emails, including the one from your own specialty society.  Then, schedule a time to read them.  Save the links to a folder/bookmark all week long, and read them during a regularly scheduled time.  Protect that time.

Get out your CPT book and read the editorial comments:  Really, it’s more fun than the gym.  Why? Answers to many questions are hidden in plain site in the editorial comments of the CPT book.  Can I bill for an ED visit and an admission? (Read the section prior to initial hospital services.)  If I biopsy two lesions on the arm, do I report two lesions or add the lengths of the two together? (Read the section prior to lesion excision.)  If I remove a central venous access device and replace it, do I code for both? (Read the comments before central venous access procedures and review the excellent chart.)

Better coding is within your reach, whether you are a coder, biller or clinician if you set and achieve these three resolutions.

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