4 Key Areas to Risk Adjustment DocumentationHealthcare is quickly transforming from a fee-for-service payment model where providers are paid based on volume of services to various value-based payment methodologies. These new payment systems are focused on promoting quality of care and creating better outcomes. One of these new payment methodologies is risk adjustment.

The goal of risk adjustment is to reward efficiency and high quality care for sicker patients. These patients require much more clinical and financial resources to treat. Health plans are paid more to cover the costs of providing care to these sicker members. The severity of illness of a plan’s members is measured by the diagnosis codes that are submitted on claims received from their healthcare providers during face to face visits.

Providers are accustomed to documenting and coding from an E/M and CPT© perspective. Changing the focus to diagnosis coding which is the focus of risk adjustment requires some changes to what they are used to.

When educating your providers on best practices for risk adjustment documentation, it is best to focus on just a few key areas.

  1. Make sure problem lists are kept up to date. The problem list should show the status of each condition (e.g., active, chronic, or resolved). It should not be a laundry list of every condition the patient has ever experienced. When updating the problem list make sure the highest level of specificity known to the provider is captured in the diagnosis codes. Be careful that problem lists don’t contain only default unspecified codes. These codes do not accurately show the true severity of illness of sicker patients
  2. All problems need to be in the assessment. All problems that are assessed during the visit should be noted in the assessment portion of the record and coded accordingly. Don’t limit the diagnosis codes on the claim to only what brought the patient into the office that day
  3. All diagnosis should be documented. All diagnosis that were part of the provider’s medical decision making process should be documented. An example of this would be a patient who is being treated with a medication that might affect the treatment of the current presenting issue. If it effects how the current condition is treated, it should be documented and coded
  4. All chronic conditions documented at least once annually. All of the patient’s chronic conditions should be assessed during a face-to-face encounter at least  annually, and submitted on a claim. This includes status codes such as amputations, transplant status, ostomies etc.

There is great value for providers in the office setting to employ coders in their office. Show your value as a professional coder by educating your providers on what they can do to ensure accurate reimbursement. Many more changes in healthcare reimbursement are approaching in upcoming years as we see look forward to the implementation of MACRA and MIPS. Working with your providers now on proper documentation and coding will ensure their success in the transition that is to come.