Information integrity is paramount in healthcare for many reasons. The quality of clinical documentation not only impacts patient care but also influences reimbursement, regulatory compliance, and legal liability. As a result, documentation integrity must be a top priority for any provider.
Self-auditing practices can proactively improve the integrity of documentation before problems arise, but they take mindful implementation on the part of clinicians and staff. Here are a few tips and best practices for prioritizing better documentation.
The importance of document integrity
Clinical documentation integrity is at the core of healthcare — for providers and patients. The accuracy by which data is captured, recorded, shared, and applied has ramifications for everything from patient outcomes to claim submissions. But what defines documentation integrity?
“Good” documentation is defined by accuracy, descriptiveness, and completeness. It’s about articulating patient information while weaving together a narrative of their medical journey. Can another clinician pick up the chart and understand the patient’s situation and needs? Can a payor look at a claim and see which services were rendered and why? Data tells a story. Strong documentation defines the robustness of that story.
Best practices for self-auditing clinical documentation integrity
Raising the bar for clinical documentation integrity starts by understanding what makes documentation good (and bad). Then, it’s a self-reflective process for each clinician to assess their own documentation policies and determine where they fall against best practices.
Here are a few ways to self-audit clinical documentation and identify methods affecting the integrity of your documents:
- Establish clear objectives. What is the purpose of the information being recorded?
- Compare against others. Where does your documentation rank among standards?
- Select random and targeted samples. Does your documentation approach vary?
- Collaborate across disciplines. What information are you overlooking?
- Develop audit criteria and guidelines. What are the best practices or standards?
- Document findings methodically. On which specific areas should you focus?
Self-auditing clinical documentation is about being introspective. Find gaps in the information you’re relaying and the methods by which it’s being relayed. Clinicians should scrutinize from all angles, concentrating on data accuracy, completeness, and context. Does your documentation make sense to others? Can they follow your thought process or the narrative you’re working to build? If not, it’s a signal for improvement.
Tips for enhancing clinical documentation processes
There’s always room to improve your documentation. Clinicians may not have the time to create robust notes, and information may go through several hands before it’s recorded. The key objective in enhancing clinical documentation integrity is setting higher standards for what’s ultimately used as the source of truth — whether it is listed in the patient’s file or recorded on an insurance claim.
Here are a few ways to improve clinical documentation from a process standpoint:
- Provide ongoing training and education. Educate clinicians on the importance of documentation and the best practices associated with it. Training can be incremental and should be specific to gaps identified in the claims process or areas of practice.
- Foster communication and collaboration. Enhance communication between clinical and administrative staff with a focus on data. Have regular meetings to address documentation challenges or transcription gaps.
- Implement documentation templates and tools. Use standardized templates for consistency whenever possible. Templates take variability out of the equation and help create consistency in how data is collected and recorded.
- Incorporate staff feedback. Gather input on documentation workflows to determine if gaps exist. Then, look for ways to plug those gaps with tools that support clinicians and administrative staff in recording, verifying, or transferring data.
- Regularly review and update policies. Set documentation standards and hold staff to them. Schedule a periodic review of documentation guidelines and use it as a driver of quality control for information capturing and recording.
Pay attention to document integrity
Document integrity affects many aspects of practice management, including the revenue cycle. Maintaining high standards for clinical documentation leads to claims accuracy, improved compliance, and better patient rapport. Establishing in-house auditing practices can boost your documentation, resulting in benefits for operations and the entire revenue cycle.
Explore the advantages of better documentation integrity with TruBridge.