I recieved the following e-mail the other day. It is a Medicare Compliance advice column that purports to help physical therapists improve their documentation "quality".
"To improve the efficiency of your note writing, eliminate words or phrases that don't lend to the quality of the note such as, "Patient reports they really enjoy coming to therapy".
Instead write, "Patient reports now being able to bend their knee to tie their shoe."
The first statement, who cares? The second statement is a subjective report of objective functional improvement."What's so bad about this advice?
But, does this note add value to your physical therapy encounter?
- Does your narrative note improve the patients' functional outcome?
- Does it improve patient satisfaction?
- Does your choice of words lower healthcare costs, going forward?
That's the problem.
Physical therapists are some of the highly educated, patient-focused and cost-effective healthcare providers in the United States today. There are about 177,000 of us and we can make SO MUCH of a difference in peoples lives.
But, instead we're being told to write this garbage.
Physical therapists must write these notes, we are told, to protect the clinic from a Medicare Audit.
Yet, the future of healthcare is moving towards a technologically-driven workforce that anticipates adverse patient events rather than responding to them. Adverse events such as...
- Community Acquired Pneumonia (a leading cause of hospital re-admissions)
- Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in our post-surgical physical therapy patients. Note, the incidence of DVT in the USA is rising, not falling.
- Disability in Americans is also rising. Our patients can't walk, climb stairs or button a shirt as well as their parents could.
Physical therapists should NOT be writing narrative notes.
What Will Future Physical Therapy Documentation Look Like?We can get a clue from the Health Information Management Systems Society (HiMSS) criteria for Electronic Medical Records implementation. Their highest level, achieved by several medical centers in America, Canada and Europe, is called the Health Level Stage 7 (HL7).
These criteria included the following:
- No paper charts
- All images are contained in a Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) within the EHR in the hospital.
- All data is entered as a discrete element called “structured data”.
- All structured data is contained in a Clinical Data Warehouse (CDW) where sophisticated algorithms look for patterns, such as disease outbreaks or heightened risk profiles in individuals.
- The CDW also puts out regular outcome reports at the level of the hospital, the clinic and the clinician.
- All services (eg: inpatient, outpatient, urgent care, PT, etc.) can produce standardized Summary Data for improved transfers and discharges.
- All computer systems are interoperable (eg: EMR, EHR, PHR)
I wonder where all the Medicare Auditors will find work once every hospital system and clinic is at the HL7 level in a few more years? :)