The question asked in a physician query may be the most important element of the document. Query questions need to be as simple and concise as possible. The physician should have no doubt what the coder is asking.
The key to making the query process more efficient is to look for words or documentation while reviewing the record that may signal a potential query opportunity and to note the finding at that time. By the time a coder reaches the end of a record, documentation may have been found to eliminate the need for the query.
Coders may find situations where a patient is documented as meeting SIRS or sepsis criteria, or has some clinical indicators reflective of possible sepsis, but the physician never documents sepsis as a diagnosis. Should the coder always query for sepsis in these instances?
There may be instances where a coder will suspect the patient has acute kidney injury (AKI), but the physician has failed to document the diagnosis. In another scenario, the physician may have made the diagnosis, but there is a question of clinical validity. In either case, a query would be justified.
When a practitioner documents a diagnosis that does not appear to be supported by the clinical indicators in the health record, a coder has four choices: (1) Code the diagnosis; (2) Ignore the diagnosis; (3) Generate a query to confirm clinical validation of a diagnosis; (4) Follow the facility’s escalation policy for clinical validation.
All queries require at least two elements – clinical indicators and a query question. Coders can also include multiple choice options for response or leave the query open-ended for a free text response. The order in which these elements are listed in a query is open to coder or facility preference.
The key to choosing reasonable options for a query response is to remember that the query must stand alone. Any clinical indicators supporting the options must be included in the query itself. In this week’s Query Tip, we provide examples of two queries in which the options for response are not reasonable based on clinical indicators used by coder.
One way to shorten a lengthy query is by avoiding repetition in the supporting documentation. Does the same diagnosis really need to be mentioned multiple times in the clinical indicators? Is it necessary to list the results of a chest x-ray twice? Does listing the same documentation multiple times give further specification or explanation to the query?