Nina Pham


 

The CDC, among others, have suggested that perhaps more training is needed to ensure that direct health care workers are properly using protective equipment.   According to that line of thought, poor Nina Pham simply did not know what she was doing when she picked up a touch of Ebola from her patient.  If only she had more education on how to put on gloves and a gown, this whole disaster could have been avoided.

I think not.

I posted my dismay regarding re-educating nurses on FaceBook and was amazed at how smart my friends are.

One non-nurse, Michelle said that education was a way to protect the facility.  In other words, when a policy is violated, the hospital is able to assure any surveyor or lawyer that they did, indeed, provide the education and training and have therefore met their responsibility.  Sadly, a successful healthcare facility (and by successful, I mean isn’t closed down) must cover all bases to minimize damages.  I would probably waste time and resources re-teaching PPE, too if I had to make the decisions.

She also pointed out that maybe protocols are not strictly enforced when the risks are lower which could lead to bad habits.  I agree.  Ever notice how MRSA is already a problem when we start monitoring hand hygiene?  (I love that.  Hand hygiene – soon there will be an aisle in the supermarket for hand hygiene products instead of soap, antibacterial gel and hand lotion.)

Lisa Selman Holman pointed out how very miserable PPE is to wear.  She is right.  It is hot and sticky, nothing fits right and it is ugly in the most unforgiving way.  I have yet to figure out how looking like Big Bird assists in the infection control process. Healthcare workers, especially those with a fashion sense, can’t wait to take it off.

If ever there was a time to spend money, this would be it.  Athletic clothing manufacturers have done amazing things with sports gear.  It seems like a clothing manufacturer who exists because they make comfortable, functional clothes that can wick away perspiration, kill enough germs to smell good and keep a body warm in water might be able to help design something comfortable, disease proof, easily taken on and off  with the assistance of an infection control specialist.

Sara Kawaguchi came up with the idea of having two people involved – one present simply to observe.  I love this idea and it is cheap to do when considering the stakes.  Having never met Miss Pham, I can only assume that she didn’t tear a glove, look at it and say, ‘Oh darn,’ and carry on with restarting an infiltrated IV line.   If she breached protocol, it was likely unnoticed by her.

My cousin, Steve, is a physician and his response was simple.

1) we are human
2) we make mistakes
3 there is no room for a mistake here, in flight or in surgery

There’s a lot of truth in that but we can minimize mistakes.  Even the world famous Quality Assurance plan designed by Toyota, Six Sigma refers to only six errors in a million.  When it comes to Ebola, nobody wants to be one of the six.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is written by a surgeon who almost killed a patient because he forgot to do something very simple and standard prior to surgery – type and match blood.  After this near catastrophe that left his confidence shaken, he set about researching how to prevent errors.  It turned out that aviation history was marred by the crash of the first B17 in which several people died.  It almost took Boeing aircraft out of the game completely.  The solution included a checklist which enabled the (highly skilled and trained pilots) to fly 12 planes a total of 1.8M miles without incident.  It is now used universally.

Checklists are not designed to educate anyone.  If you have ever turned in visit notes only to find out that you forgot to write a narrative because you were interrupted, you are prone to human error.  If you have ever been called about a bill you know you paid only to find the stamped envelope in your purse, you could have used a checklist.  They are designed to let you pick up where you left off in the event something slips your mind, you are preoccupied or there is chaos all around you.  They ground and center the user.

There are undoubtedly numerous approaches to improving the safety of healthcare workers but re-educating the staff in a critical care unit on how to put on and take off PPE is an intervention for the hospital – not the nurses.  Don’t tell me that the staff in an intensive care unit requires more schoolin’ to put on gowns, masks and gloves.  Make them more comfortable so they aren’t urgently ripped off like they were on fire the minute you clear the room.  Have someone else watch.  Use a check list.  Doing more of what was done in the past because it didn’t work doesn’t quite make sense to me.

What the healthcare staff needs the most is a cure for Ebola.  When it comes to caring for a patient with Ebola, especially at the end of life, perhaps the most important changes will come about from the staff who were actually there doing the job.  If the blame game stops and the focus is directed to increased protection of healthcare workers, why not consult that handful of clinicians who are the only ones in the United States to have cared for Ebola patients in US hospitals?

I know that you join The Coders in wishing Godspeed to Nina Pham’s recovery.  She was able to be there for a patient isolated from his family and friends when he needed them the most.  People like Nina Pham do not put their own lives on the line for a paycheck.  She has a calling and I pray she will be back at work sooner than later.

Also,  let’s not forget that Nina Pham is not alone.  A few dozen other healthcare workers who took the same risk as Nina Pham and so far, have been free of symptoms.  These include the staff in Dallas as well as Nebraska and GA where two other Ebola patients have been treated.  They are no less heroic because they have not contracted Ebola; they just haven’t made the news and I hope they don’t any time soon.

Ebola? Here in the States?


 

It looks like we have company in the form of another virus.  Ebola has caused quite a stir in the US and the media is torn between reporting it as a benign little incident so insignificant as to not warrant our attention and predicting Armageddon.  With all new viral pathogens, it is difficult to predict.  A virus will do what it can to survive and most times that means reducing the severity of the illness so as not to kill its host and prolonging the incubation period.  Who knows what Ebola will do.

If 40,000 fatalities from Ebola were predicted this year, there would be mass panic.  If there was a preventative measure, who wouldn’t do what they could to get it  no matter what the cost? 

We are looking at close to 40,000 deaths from flu and pneumonia this year.  There are legitimate questions about these statistics such as why are flu and pneumonia lumped together as the 8th leading cause of death?  They are not the same disease.  To dispel the statistical arguments, lets pretend that only 20,000 deaths will result from the flu this year.  Tragically, most cases of the flu are preventable at no cost to most people.

Setting death aside for a minute (or hopefully many years), consider the experience of having the flu.  The first day or so, patients are afraid they are going to die.  As it reaches its peak, they are afraid they will not die.

We don’t want our patients to feel like that.   Many home health patients will end up in the hospital if they get the flu.  Hospice patients may be terminal but most have plans to die from something less miserable.  It is okay to get between the flu and your hospice patient. 

So, while we are panicking about Ebola, let’s keep in mind that there are thousands of lives we can save with a simple flu shot.  The CDC has a ton of free resources that you can use in your agency, patient homes, and community to promote vaccination.  Most have room for your company logo and the CDC is fine with you adding it.  Think about it.  When was the last time that the government provided you with professionally designed materials to be used in promoting your agency or hospice? 

When we figure out what we can do about Ebola, we’ll post it here.  Until then, get out there and stick as many old people with needles as you can.  Here are some codes you can include on your care plan if you know upon admission that you will be giving a flu vaccine.

  • V03.82 Vaccine for Streptococcus Pneumonia (PPV)
  • V04.81 Vaccine for Influenza Virus
  • V06.6 Streptococcus pneumoniae [pneumococcus] and influenza

Is anyone qualified to write or help us write a short blog on how to bill for the flu and pneumonia vaccines?  Let me know below or by emailing TheCoders@hhcoding.com.

Elderly Abuse?


A colleague of mine got a couple of phone calls from patients terrified they were going to be admitted to a nursing home.  Two men had come by with a three page list of questions and started asking very personal questions about whether or not they can get in a car, if they can go out to eat and how often their nurse visits.

My colleague reports in his email to me:

“They are not leaving cards or anything. One savvy patient finally got all their information and called us with it.”

and

“One patient was not home when they stopped at his house so they talked with and asked his neighbor questions.”

The men in question were employed by Jackson Dunham Sato & Associates. If you glance through the bio’s on the left sidebar, you will see that essentially all of the managers, partners and associates mostly come from one of two federal governing bodies – the OIG, and CMS (Medicare).  In fact, if you go to the top bar and click on careers, you will find that they are not interested in you if you are not:

  • A current or former Office of Inspector General Auditor/Investigator with healthcare experience
  • A current or former CMS employee who has been involved in program compliance/integrity oversight

At least you don’t have to worry about them poaching your employees.

I realize and you probably do, too, that all of this information is second and third hand.  In order to be responsible, I emailed each of the three senior partners and have not received a response.  The questions asked of them were:

  1. Is this your usual policy regarding identification of your investigators on home visits?
  2. Would it be possible to have your folks dress down; perhaps wear scrubs?
  3. What explanation is given to the patients if they do not ask for identification?  Do the investigators allow them to make assumptions no matter how terrifying?
  4. Do you understand that a patient fearful of nursing home placement might exaggerate their functional abilities?
  5. Could you or do you leave some sort of documentation with the patients?  Patients are calling agencies who are unaware of your presence and cannot offer the patients any reassurance because they do not know who interrogated their patients.
  6. Do you ever send clinicians out to the home to verify medication use and evaluate gait and balance?
  7. Do you do a mental status exam on the patients?  Many patients with Alzheimer’s Dementia and other organic brain syndromes appear as right as rain the first couple of times you meet them.
  8. How do you choose the providers you will be investigating?   Are they assigned to you by Health Integrity?  Do you have access to databases that you can mine for data?
  9. How are you paid by Health Integrity?  Is your payment predicated in any way on recouped monies or arrests?

I have not gotten a response but Health Integrity, LLC confirms that Jackson Dunham, Sato and Associates are a ‘partner’ on their website.  Health Integrity, LLC is the Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) for CMS Regions 2 and 4.  Combined, these two regions encompass  Alaska, Arizona, Colorado,  Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma,, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Regardless of an agency’s guilt or innocence, our elderly deserve to be treated with more respect than they have been shown by Jackson Dunham Sato and Associates.  I question the motives of a firm that resorts to intimidating elderly patients and possibly encouraging them to exaggerate their functional abilities in order to ‘prove’ that a patient is not homebound.  Are they genuinely concerned about the welfare of our elderly and protecting the trusts that fund Medicare or are they simply trying to satisfy a requirement for contract renewal, bonus pay or something else?

I can sit at my desk a thousand miles away from a patient and know whether or not their homebound status is questionable.  It is tedious to read every note, every MD clinic visit and OASIS assessment to look for discrepancies and the tell tale signs that the patient does not fit the description in the care plan and the visit notes.   It is not the most glamorous job in the world, I assure you but it can be done without instilling fear of unwanted nursing home placement in elderly people.  Even if a visit has to be made in order to make a final determination, it does not require rudeness or fear.  Even if the investigators are accompanied by a nurse from the agency, it is unlikely that a nurse would be able to influence the patient to lie.

The very best consultant and the very best lawyer cannot help you if you are determined to play outside of the conditions of participation and conditions for payment.  We’ll take you money and do our best. If it is a question of inadequate documentation versus fraud, we can generally help but there is not much we can do if you simply choose to sidestep the rules.

Nobody who works for Medicare or is contracted or subcontracted by Medicare seems to understand that good providers have even less tolerance for the fraudulent providers than they do.  If they would make just the tiniest effort to work with the majority of providers who are good, they might learn a thing or two and then it wouldn’t take years and hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars gone before they caught up with the truly bad players.  At that point, they could offer more frequent education to those providers who take compliance seriously.

If your patients have had visitors or if you have had experience with Jackson Dunham, Sato and Associates, please email me privately and let me know.  As always your comments are welcome below and if I get a response from Jackson Dunham, Sato and Associates, I will be sure to let you know.

One last thing….. if I ever hear of you intimidating a patient, watch out.  I am not nice when I hear of an elderly person treated with anything less than respect.

This Just (snuck) In!


Hospice Providers, take note

To be quite honest, I have never seen a ‘no code’ list in hospice.  If anything, I would expect to see a ‘full code’ list as any code status besides DNR would be the exception.

And yet, there is a new list of codes that hospices may not use when determining the primary reason for hospice care.   A list of codes at the end of this document will be automatically returned to providers when used as a principle code for hospice for claims billed after October 1.

This information comes from CMS change request 8877 which also contains very important information about the Notice of Election.

Home Health Providers:

An updated Local Coverage Determination has been published by Palmetto GBA for Alzheimer’s Dementia.  Among the insightful gems included in this guidance is the following passage begging the question of, ‘does someone have too much time on their hands?’

Behavioral disturbances often complicate the medical management of beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease. At baseline many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease manifest activity limitations in such domains as communication and self-care. The occurrence of behavioral disturbances, if not addressed in a comprehensive and systematic manner, may further compromise the activity limitations present at baseline – resulting in sub-optimal clinical outcomes.

Wow.  I’m glad we cleared that up.  Seriously, look how often the word, ‘baseline’ is used.  If you really want to get paid, consider using the FAST scale to stage Alzheimer’s on admission and recert.  There are also numerous documentation requirements.  Please review and document accordingly.

If you recall, numerous claims once denied for Face-to-Face documentation are now being denied for lack of both long and short term goals.  The reference to short and long term goals is listed as the Physical Therapy LCD.  I am quite certain that the Alzheimer’s documentation LCD will be used in the same way.

Both of these regulations will take place on October 1.  Be ready.

 

The Hospice No Code List

290.0 Senile Dementia Uncomplicated
290.10 Presenile Dementia Uncomplicated
290.11 Presenile Dementia With Delirium
290.12 Presenile Dementia With Delusional Features
290.12 Presenile Dementia With Delusional Features
290.13 Presenile Dementia With Depressive Features
290.20 Senile Dementia With Delusional Features
290.20 Senile Dementia With Delusional Features
290.21 Senile Dementia With Depressive Features
290.3 Senile Dementia With Delirium
290.3 Senile Dementia With Delirium
290.40 Vascular Dementia Uncomplicated
290.41 Vascular Dementia With Delirium
290.42 Vascular Dementia With Delusions
290.43 Vascular Dementia With Depressed Mood
290.8 Other Specified Senile Psychotic Conditions
290.9 Unspecified Senile Psychotic Condition
293.0 Delirium Due To Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.1 Subacute Delirium
293.81 Psychotic Disorder With Delusions In
293.82 Psychotic Disorder With Hallucinations In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.83 Mood Disorder In Conditions Classified Elsewhere
293.89 Other Specified Transient Organic Mental Disorders Due To Conditions Classified Elsewhere
294.20 Dementia, Unspecified, Without Behavioral Disturbance
294.21 Dementia, Unspecified, With Behavioral Disturbance
294.8 Other Persistent Mental Disorders Due To Conditions Classified Elsewhere
294.8 Other Persistent Mental Disorders Due To Conditions Classified Elsewhere
310.0 Frontal Lobe Syndrome
310.1 Personality Change Due To Conditions Classified Elsewhere
310.2 Postconcussion Syndrome
310.89 Other Specified Nonpsychotic Mental Disorders Following Organic Brain Damage
310.9 Unspecified Nonpsychotic Mental Disorder Following Organic Brain Damage

Incarcerated Prisoners


 

 

The telephone is often our most sacred source of amusement.   We love email, texts and blog comments but there are some things that people will not commit to writing.  When we need a break, we simply turn our volume up and answer the phone.

The question of my day was, ‘If a patient moves, can we still see them if they are in the service area?”

The answer was too obvious so the caller was answered with a question.  “Where did the patient go?”

The answer was less than articulate but the word ‘jail’ was in there somewhere.  Apparently, the patient got a little tipsy and loud and someone called the police and there were outstanding warrants and he is taking a little vacation courtesy of the county.

Not wanting to give bad advice, a little research was done on behalf of the caller – after all, this was cheap entertainment.  What we found, though, was not as amusing as we had hoped.  The definition of incarcerated includes beneficiaries who are:

‘• Imprisoned;
• Escaped from confinement;
• Under supervised release;
• On medical furlough;
• Required to reside in mental health facilities;
• Required to reside in halfway houses;
• Required to live under home detention; or
• Confined completely or partially in any way under a penal statute or rule.

The patient is not eligible for services.  This is important.  If someone is incarcerated, the incarcerator picks up the tab for all medical expenses.  (Consider that if you don’t have insurance and need surgery.)

If you are providing services to someone who has escaped from confinement, you have bigger problems and my recommendation is to pretend you do not know that your patient is an escaped convict.  If you let on that you know, you may experience a sudden reduction in staff.   If your conscience bothers you, don’t bill for the care and enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the OIG when you are able to safely discharge the patient.

The risks to home health and hospice providers are further down on the list.  The United states has more prisoners per capita than any other country and Louisiana tops the list of states with 867 people per 100,000 meeting the definition of ‘incarcerated’ as provided above.  And yet, earlier in the week, researchers from Harvard University together with the University of British Columbia announced that they have determined that the five happiest cities in the nation were in Louisiana.   (Mardi Gras?)

In fact, it appears as though CMS Region 6 is well represented in the list.  In addition to being Region 6 states, it is noted that all of them are in the South and none of the very cold states have many prisoners.

Medicare Regional Map and Density of US Prison Population

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But, you have a bigger problem than the weather in Region 6.  Specifically, it appears as though the various prison systems across the states are very slow to update their systems.  In some states, Medicaid is auto-cancelled when someone is incarcerated.  Released prisoners do not always know to reapply.  In other states unless someone applies to be taken off of probation they will remain on probation until a judge approves their release.

Medicare is denying claims for the incarcerated.  States can decide if they want to use Medicaid dollars but most don’t.  The ones that pay for prison healthcare forego the matching Medicare funds.  In Louisiana, we don’t have to worry about those required to reside in Mental Health facilities because our jail is our mental health facility but like everyone else we need to be concerned about halfway houses, supervised release and those on Medical Furlough.  If a patient on House Arrest gets past you, shame on you for not checking pedal pulses.  You don’t deserve to get paid if you missed the ankle bracelet.

If you inadvertently bill for a a person who is under the jurisdiction of the court, it will result in a denial.  If you live in one of the northern states, this should be an isolated incident.  If you live down south, it could become an expensive issue.  Medicare is supposedly getting on to states to tidy up their prison rosters but meanwhile, if you live in a state like Louisiana or Mississippi, my suggestion is, quite frankly, to include an assessment of their legal history at time of admission.  Don’t be rude about it.  Just ask something like, ‘Are you able to transfer from both the top and bottom bunk?’

THE Hospice Quiz


If you own or work at a hospice, there has never been a better time to make sure that you understand the rules and regulations just like Medicare intended.  The quiz below is a very basic quiz designed for you and your staff or co-workers to take to ensure that you are not denied payment or worse,  step on a regulatory landmine.

10 Common Documentation Flaws


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Stop and use caution before documenting your visit!

 

If you are not concerned about poor to mediocre patient care, getting paid or your license, read no further.  If any or all of these issues are of concern to you, keep reading.  Below are ten of the most frequent flaws in nursing documentation reviewed by the coders.  We know that these oversights and omissions are most often the result of a busy schedule or inattention to documentation because we know our clients.  State surveyors, Medicare contractors and agencies named with 3 letters and an Eagle (OIG, FBI, DHS, CMS, etc.) do not express any great interest in the underlying causes of poor documentation.

1.  No MD Contact Documented when appropriate

Many times, the MD is not called at the house due to time constraints or other issues.  When orders are received, they do not tie back to any communication in the chart.  Documentation of two way communication is critical to both sound clinical practice and payment.

2.  Contradictory Information

The 486 summary indicates that the patient lives with a daughter but the OASIS states the patient lives alone.  The OASIS data states that the patient becomes short of breath with minimal activity but the plan of care does not include shortness of breath in the functional limitation.

3.  Blind Adherence to Rules of Thumb

Somewhere along the way, nurses were told that they must always document on the primary diagnosis on every visit and follow the clinical pathway written by someone who has never visited the patient.  This has led to visit notes that read like, “Pt found on floor with scalp wound bleeding profusely.  Reports she fell yesterday and wasn’t wearing life alert button.  Taught to avoid soda and other concentrated sweets to manage blood sugar.”

4. Failure to Document Sensitive Information

A chart found in one the best agencies I know of had multiple notes reading that the patient complained of extreme pain.  The physician was notified after every visit with a fax and a copy of the med list.  No new orders were received.  The Director of Nursing explained that the patient had recently been the subject of an evening news story involving the sale of her pain meds to supplement her Social Security check. 

5. Missing the Little Stuff

When little things like vital signs, weights, and blood sugars are omitted from the clinical record, it causes problems.  A weight gain of ten pounds after two weeks of forgetting to weigh the patient is negligent but not as bad as forgetting the third week when the patient is hospitalized.  Most nurses take vital signs.  I spend many nights staring at the ceiling wondering why they aren’t on the chart.  Then I remember that I tend to write them on my arms and if I bathe before I chart, they are lost to the water supply.  What’s your reason?

6.  Missing the Big Stuff

Missing new orders, teaching on medications that have been discontinued and not notifying the MD for problems is more common than you think.  It is what feeds many malpractice attorneys.  It is why state surveyors might not trust anything you say during survey.  It is why nurses find themselves answering very difficult questions to the state board of nursing.  If you do not have a current care plan, refuse to see the patient until you have a verbal report.  Document the verbal report.  If you see a patient without looking at prior orders, shame on you.  If the prior orders taken by another nurse are not written and as a result you teach a patient to take a med that has been discontinued, write an incident report.  This is stuff that kills patients.

7.  Lack of Follow-Up

Lack of follow leaves gaping holes in the chart, and often, results in missed opportunities to provide better care to patients.  Consider a clinical record where you read one week that the patient has a doctor’s appointment the following day and that’s the last time it is mentioned.  Did anyone call to see if there was lab or new meds ordered?  It’s hard to believe but sometimes patients don’t tell you these things. 

8.  No Ongoing Medication Reviews

One of the easiest way to prevent re-hospitalizations, adverse reactions, and non-compliance with medication is to simply review all medications against the med list on each and every visit.  Every time a med is missing, a new med appears, or there seems to be confusion in dosing, there lies an opportunity to improve the care of a patient and to increase your level of skill ensuring payment. 

9.  Taking the patient’s word at face value

If a patient tells you they had a lab or diagnostic test and the results were fine, by all means document it.  Also call the physician who ordered the test and get the scoop.  The physician may have told the patient it was ‘fine’ or ‘no change since the last MRI’ but in the context of the specific patient, that same test could show degenerative disease, a low hematocrit or some other information important to support eligibility for your patient.  If possible, always get copies of the final reports for lab and diagnostic tests.

10.  Evidence of Ignorance

This sounds harsh but it is evident en masse in the clinical records reviewed by The Coders.  A new medication will be ordered specific to a disease that is not documented anywhere.  Eye drops for glaucoma, Zemplar for hyperparathyroidism secondary to renal disease, Invokana for Type II diabetes are all medications seen within the last week that have no corresponding diagnosis.  These meds both have serious side effects and teaching to ‘take medications as ordered’ will not help the patient avoid untoward adverse reactions or recognize side effects. 

All of these shortfalls in clinical documentation can be avoided by simply reviewing the charts.  The average time for a skilled nursing visit is 30 minutes and the average payment is equal or more to what nurses would make in the hospital.  This means that nurses have the time to review the clinical records, go to case conference meetings and call physicians.  If a nurse has ten fingers and a keyboard or two thumbs and a smart phone, enough information regarding medications is available around the clock.  Medscape has a great completely free app for mobile phones that has data that can be stored on your phone when you are away from Internet connectivity.

We all want to get paid.  If agencies don’t get paid, they have no money to pay consultants and coders and that reason to document well falls second only to improving patient care.