As healthcare providers across the United States prepare for treating suspected and confirmed cases of the coronavirus called COVID-19, coders are familiarizing themselves with a set of coding guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to Catrena Lewis, audit and education manager at medical coding company KIWI-TEK, coders are well accustomed to coding updates, but the spread of COVID-19 to the United States provides a good reminder for those in healthcare management to refine their processes around novel viruses and other issues that have the potential to change coding process. As soon as there’s an inkling that a new illness is brewing across the country or across the world, leaders should be thinking about how to standardize processes in their organizations before the official guidelines come out from the CDC, Lewis said. She recommended taking three steps:
1. Look for payer guidelines that could apply. Once the CDC releases official guidelines, those will apply, but many payers set up their own to use in the interim.
2. Look for current coding guidelines that could address the issue, such as those that apply to other novel viruses.
3. If the first two steps do not provide useful information, set interim organizational guidelines and identify who in the provider organization will capture the data on the new virus until the CDC guidelines come out. Standardizing across the organization will help analyze how many patients came in suspecting the illness, how many were tested and how many were diagnosed.
“If you want to be able to quantify the financial impact and resource consumption, it’s important that there are guidelines and that coding staff are educated,” Lewis said.