March 4, 2016 Ask Owen

EHR Documentation Policies Improve Revenue Cycle Management

There is a learning curve when it comes to using electronic health records to maximize revenue cycle management. But the paper to digital switch can strengthen charge capture.

Revenue cycle management can reap substantial benefits from improved electronic health record (EHR) documentation.medical-money-300x225

But the learning curve is perhaps still too steep to move forward without stumbling.

Many physicians consider EHR implementation as a viable opportunity to relieve their clinical documentation woes.

But an EHR is perhaps only as good as the people behind it.

“If you have poor documentation habits now and you automate the same exact process, you then have a poor electronic process,” Lou Ann Widemann, MS, RHIA, FHIMA, CDIP, CPEHR, AHIMA’s Director of Practice Excellence, told

Honing in on what EHR opportunities to consider is imperative to revenue cycle success.

Many different EHR features – such as templates and checkboxes – make documentation simpler with automation, she said.

Documentation is not taught in medical school, explained Widemann. Although the concept is clearly not as new as it once was, industry adaptability is key.

“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” she advised. “There are tons of resources.”

“Obviously, you have a learning curve to get used to those things, but once you do you have opportunities to make it really easier to document and paint a clearer picture.”

Tapping into EHR charge capture opportunity

Nearly three-quarters of physician practices expected a drop in profitability several years ago because of billing obstacles and recordkeeping technology snags, according to 2013 Black Book data.

Ninety-seven percent of business managers confirmed that implementation of an all-in-one EHR/practice management system resulted in less financial dependence and more revenue in than out.

Sixty percent of healthcare providers were utilizing EHRs in 2012, according to research from the Institute for Health Technology Transformation.

But although a reported one-third were able to capture EHR data to help patients, 43 percent said care quality was suffering from a lack of sufficient data.

But EHRs are proving advantageous when it comes to charge capture.

“It solves your lost charge problems and helps make sure you have the right equipment at the bedside for the patient,” Jon Rains, CEO of Carrus Hospitals, told

“Right now [it’s] a real struggle because we can have thousands of dollars in lost charges and [there] really is no way to capture that because when it is all paper it’s too hard from an accounting perspective to make sure everything is as they say it is,” he explained.

But not all are necessarily happy to make the paper to digital switch, even when problems with a billing company become commonplace.

EHR resistance can be offset with EHR education and familiarity, Michael Creef, MD, a Virginia-based independent family physician, said to

“I picked EHR use up very quickly, was pleased with it, and was able to impart it to my colleagues,” he explained.

“Consequently, this has decreased the amount of time a patient was spending on paperwork and helped us to be able to get things rolling on a much faster basis.”

“Years ago, I said I wasn’t interested in electronic records. Now I’m not only interested in it, I’m teaching them, and I like it.”

“You can teach old dogs new tricks, believe me. The oldest member of our group is 83 and even he’s come around to it.”

Solutions demand analyzing outpatient charge capture data

Hospitals can enhance their revenue cycle management by carefully analyzing outpatient charge capture data, reported the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).

“A hospital can bolster its charge-capture analysis by performing a charge-capture process walk-through and scrutinizing subsystem links, third-party payer contracts, and electronic health record structures,” stated HFMA.

“The hospital then can integrate charge-integrity functions into clinical departments as needed by developing charge-reconciliation tools and reports and monitoring their utilization, and incorporating charge-reconciliation responsibilities into clinical department managers’ job descriptions and goals.”

By taking advantage of available technology, hospitals can focus on going back to the charge capture basics to stay ahead of the ever evolving EHR curve.

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