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Improve Wound Care Billing and Coding Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

9 tips for improving your hospital's wound care billing and coding performance

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Oftentimes a wound center is offering excellent patient care, and healing rates are high. However, when it comes time to account for revenue, clinical staff is left in the dark. While good patient care is important, a center that fails to track its revenue may soon see its doors closed.

1. Understand the basics

Billing and coding is the process by which insurance companies and the government instruct healthcare providers for payment of services provided. Coding, with all of its regula­tions, is how they want to see it.

In the billing and coding world today, it's not just about getting paid: it's about getting paid and holding onto it! Protecting your center from a recovery audit contractor review means mainta­ining accurate docume­ntation to support the associated billing and coding.

2. Know what RAC auditors are looking at

Wound care is on the RACs' hit list right now, and it can be frustr­ating when money is taken back from a center. This happens even on legitimate claims when the docume­ntation is reviewed and determined to be incomp­lete.

With all of the reimbu­rsement cuts over the last few years, wound centers need to bill for all the services they perform. One of the core beliefs of Wound Care Advantage is that, if operated correctly, a wound center should be profitable and able to stand on its own.

3. Create a relati­onship with the business office

As reimbu­rse­ments continue to decline, and hospitals operate on even tighter profit margins, knowing the financial standing of your center should be a high priority. My experience has shown many physicians and clinicians focus on patient care (as they should) and fail to consider the financial side of health­care.

Ironic­ally, most wound centers have little or no relati­onship with their hospital business office. I encourage all of our centers to develop this relati­onship so they understand how their department claims are being paid.

Important areas to discover are the revenue of the center, along with denials. If your center experi­ences denials, make sure you understand why the denial occurred and, more import­antly, what you can do to prevent future denials.

4. Unsurance verifi­cation & author­ization process

Before a patient presents at the clinic, a staff member should begin the process of insurance verifi­cation and author­iza­tion. A center receives referrals from many places and, in most cases, insurance inform­ation is passed along. When this inform­ation is received, it is best to take on Ronald Reagan's old adage, "­trust but verify." The insurance should be verified prior to the first visit and re-ver­ified on a regular basis. I recommend verifying insurance on a monthly basis.

In the current healthcare landscape, expect a patient's insurance to change often. The front desk coordi­nator should not expect patients to volunteer the inform­ation. By the time they alert the center of a change, revenue may have already been lost from previously filed claims.

In addition to verifi­cation, it is good practice to find out if prior author­ization for a visit and/or procedure is required. It is important that whoever is handling author­ization knows which treatments patients are receiving. This process is perhaps the most important factor in the financial success of any center.

5. Broad knowledge of billing & coding training

Most physicians and clinicians have little to no knowledge of the coding process. Typically, this is entrusted to their hospital's health inform­ation management depart­ment. However, with all the reimbu­rsement changes, it is more important then ever for all clinic staff to have a broad billing and coding knowledge base.

Without a financial unders­tan­ding, physicians may be offering costly treatments when there may be other effective but less costly treatments available. If you don't know what or how you are getting paid, you aren't able to make a decision for change.

6. Correct flaws in the commun­ica­tions loop

When we partner with a hospital system with an existing wound center, the majority do not have in house billing or coding experts. Insurance verifi­cation and author­ization is handled by clinic staff, while coding is left to the HIM department and billing to the business office. This may seem like a viable solution until it surfaces that clinic staff cannot answer what they are being paid and how they are addressing denials.

7. Avoid the denial in the first place

Many hospital systems will notify a wound center of denials only if the denial was avoidable. However, if a center is not fully aware of all denials, then its staff cannot take corrective actions to avoid future penalties. For example, there may be a process that needs to change in order to avoid more denials. The more revenue knowledge given to the center, the more tools clinicians have to ensure accurate docume­ntation and the financial success of the center.

Centers should also stay current on any laws and government regula­tions related to billing and coding. Current local coverage determ­ina­tions and any wound care related articles should be regularly posted for clinic staff to review. At WCA we have an online system to push out alerts to our centers.
When the WCA team begins working with an existing center, we assess the billing and coding by reviewing the docume­nta­tion. This includes both present and past docume­ntation as we look for patterns of denial. Once we understand reasons for non-pa­yment and issues are identi­fied, we assist in developing a process to assure a low to no denial rate

8. Review the revenue cycle

Upon developing a new center or optimizing an existing center, we conduct a complete review of the entire revenue cycle process, from insurance verifi­cation to the bills going out the door. We also work with centers to set up their charge masters.

Once a center is up and running, most of our support is focused around answering questions regarding coding and docume­ntation issues. The WCA auditing team reviews the docume­ntation to ensure all the approp­riate elements and signatures are present. An audit report is sent daily with any missing elements, helping to assure that docume­ntation is as compliant as possible.

9. Cost effective is not an evil term

The number one rule we live by at WCA is patient care is everyt­hing. To accomplish this, we help heal patients faster and also help heal them in the most cost efficient way for both the patient and the center. This unique mix of care and cost can only happen if you get paid approp­riately for all the services you do perform.

Questions to Start Analyzing

The following questions are a good place to start as you analyze your current billing and coding perfor­mance and make the necessary changes:
Do you know what you are getting paid?
Does your docume­ntation reflect the services billed?
Do your claims reflect services that were performed?
How many and what kind of denials have you received?
Can you do anything to prevent further denials?
The ability to answer these questions will help your center move towards financial success and provide the stability to heal patients in your community for many years to come.