Welcome Back, Mr. SCIC


The SCIC is Back

Nurses who did not enter home health until this decade may be familiar with SCIC’s. Maybe they read about them or they were briefly reviewed in orientation. In the early years of PPS, a SCIC or other follow-up assessment changed the payment of an episode. Then it didn’t. Soon it will again. So the Significant Change in Condition; or other follow-up is a thing and it’s about to be a bigger thing.

The Quarterly OASIS Q and A from Medicare state:

When diagnosis codes change between one 30-day claim and the next, there is no requirement for the HHA to complete an RFA 5- Other follow-up assessment to ensure that diagnosis coding on the claim matches to the OASIS assessment. The CoP 484.55(d) does require an RFA 05 when there has been a major improvement or decline in a patient’s condition that was not envisioned in the original Plan of Care. CMS expects agencies to have and follow agency policies that determine the criteria for when the Other Follow-up assessment is to be completed.

The OASIS User Manual defines ‘RFA-5 other follow-up’ as:

… comprehensive assessment is conducted due to a major decline or improvement in patient’s health status occurring at a time other than during the last five days of the episode. This assessment is done to re-evaluate the patient’s condition, allowing revision to the patient’s care plan as appropriate.

With 30-day claim periods and 60-day OASIS intervals, there may be changes in your patient’s condition causing your patient to need more care that are not reflected in payment. If this occurs during the first claim period, the SCIC assessment is a way to increase payment for the second 30-day claim period. The claim period will only be adjusted if the date of assessment occurs prior to the 30th day.

So, in crafting or revising your SCIC policy, a good place to start would be with the OASIS questions that will affect your outcomes and payment – particularly hospitalizations. Currently, you must collect information on hospitalization risk and it will affect payment. Why not include factors that might increase the patient’s risk for hospitalization?

  • One or more falls
  • Unintentional weight loss of a total of X pounds (contingent upon base weight of patient.)
  • Any hospitalization, ER visit or MD visit that results in a change in orders.
  • Persistent decline in mental, emotional, or behavioral status.
  • Reported or observed history of difficulty complying with any medical instructions (for example, medications, diet, exercise) that is not corrected within two weeks with patient and caregiver education.
  • New medications that require teaching
  • Exhaustion that was not present on admission and does not result from exertion such as family outing or holiday.

All of these criteria have the potential to change the case mix weight. And remember that the Conditions of Participation state that risks for hospitalization should be on the care plan along with interventions on how to mitigate those risks.

Crafting a policy around two mandates already in effect will result in a policy that doesn’t require a lot of extra work to teach or monitor.

Should you have any questions or comments, please email us or leave a comment. If you have a different idea, we are open to hearing it.

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PDGM for Nurses


This brief overview is directed specifically to nurses and therapists who will be completing the OASIS assessments that will determine payment. This is not a complete guide to PDGM but it is important for the field clinicians.

You work hard. Get paid.

A PDGM Primer


It’s almost time for PDGM, the payment system that could dampen our holiday spirits if agencies are not ready. As you can see by the chart below, provided by our friends at CMS, the HIPPS code, which determines payment, will be calculated a little differently than the current PPS HIPPS code.

Position 1 will refer to a new 30 day billing cycle and only the first 30 day period of care will be considered ‘Early’.  Bring your billers Starbucks or Redbull.  They will need it as twice as many claims will be dropped.  And yet, OASIS will still be collected on the same 60 day cycle.

Look at next column. There are 12 different groups into which patients will fall according to their diagnosis codes. Most agencies have certified coders (presumably us) and the assessing clinician’s job is to provide accurate assessment information to assist The Coders in finding the correct codes and sequence. Many codes that are currently used will not be accepted as primary in PDGM and The Coders will be searching for clues to refine the diagnosis codes.

The source of the episode is not very flexible but agencies can change marketing strategies to try to increase the number of patients admitted post hospital. Understand that refusing community referrals that meet your admission criteria policy to improve your ‘numbers’ is highly unethical and possibly illegal. But, if you have a very high percentage of community admissions, there is nothing wrong with increasing marketing efforts to surgeons and other physicians who typically admit patients directly after a hospitalization.

elderly-folksThe admitting clinician’s largest contribution to payment is the functional domain which has been chronically under assessed and given the least attention of all payment elements. Many agencies will be leaving money on the table and risking denials for homebound status if nurses and therapists don’t know how to respond to the questions make up the functional status. There are eight OASIS questions used to in the PDGM calculations and seven of them are the functional domain questions.

The first place to start is teaching and reteaching the Conventions for completing OASIS. The can be found in Chapter 1 of the manual. They haven’t changed since the advent of OASIS but as new clinicians rotate in and out, they are often overlooked in orientation. The ones that are misunderstood are sandwiched between statements of common sense. Here are two that are frequently misunderstood (without wonder).

  1. Report what is true on the day of assessment unless a different time period has been indicated in the item or related guidance. Day of assessment is defined as the 24 hours immediately preceding the home visit and the time spent by the clinician in the home.
  2. If the patient’s ability or status varies on the day of the assessment, report the patient’s “usual status” or what is true greater than 50% of the assessment time frame, unless the item specifies differently.

These two conventions could mean that some of your patients who had a procedure the day before admission are being underscored.  Misunderstanding them  could also cause a nurse to underscore a patient if they simply record what is true at the time of the visit. (Read about a real life example from 2009 here.) Sundowning generally occurs after the nurse’s visit. Add a sleeping pill at ten PM and it could be true that the patient wasn’t safe to get to the restroom independently for over 12 hours of any given day. Agencies can improve OASIS scoring and ethically increase payment by understanding these two conventions.

Here are two more.

  1. Understand the definitions of words as used in the OASIS.
  2. When an OASIS item refers to assistance, this means assistance from another person. Assistance is not limited to physical contact and can include necessary verbal cues and/or supervision.

The definitions of words as used in OASIS often varies from normal everyday use. This is why seemingly intelligent employees sometimes answer OASIS questions incorrectly. Consider OASIS question m2020 that investigates the patient’s ability to take all oral medications but when you read the OASIS manual it instructs us to consider the medication for which the most assistance is needed when selecting a response.  (Why the bold, italicized font if the definition of ‘all’ wasn’t ‘all’)

If a family member must constantly remind your patient to use a cane, that is considered assistance. If someone must remind them to eat, they need assistance.

This information is from the official OASIS Guidance manual. It is not an invitation to upcode. Rather, it is a warning to not leave money on the table. Don’t wait until PDGM to teach and reteach these conventions. Start checking admission paperwork now and educating the nurses and therapists doing your admissions when you see contradictions between the chart and the OASIS. Good agencies work hard to provide care to patients and deserve to be paid. We have friends and colleagues working in the field and we see how tired they are at the end of the day.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. We are always available to check your OASIS and ICD-10 coding but for now, pull ten charts and see if the functional domain questions are answered in accordance with these conventions.

Don’t worry.  We’re making this adventure with you and will post more information next week.