Let’s face it, risk season is chaotic. From July to December, sometimes even into January, everyone is scrambling to find quality coders with the unique qualifications needed to effectively code for risk adjustment (RA) and hierarchical condition categories (HCC). If you are lucky enough to find coders, you still have the stress of looming deadlines you must meet. And of course, because revenue is at risk, you want to ensure that your coding quality doesn’t slip.
Imagine not having to find a new group of coders to meet short-term needs and instead, being able to maintain a steady, consistent work group that could support you year-round. Wouldn’t it be a better use of your time to invest in a core group of resources who will support your organization from both a coding as well as an auditing and quality control process perspective?
Luckily, there’s a straightforward way to minimize all the stress usually associated with HCC coding – adopt a year-round HCC coding approach. Following are five benefits of going from seasonal to year-round HCC code capture.
1. Save time and money by not rebuilding your HCC coding team every year
Have you thought about the true cost of constantly interviewing, testing, onboarding, and training coders? What about the value of the time your team spends staffing up every few months? By adopting a year-round model, you’ll spend less time hiring HCC coders and more time building your team and improving quality, productivity, and results. And don’t forget about the cost of overtime – a year-round approach distributes the work more evenly, which can help to minimize overtime pay as you approach critical deadlines.
Even if you work with a vendor for your HCC coders, it’s to your advantage to go with a year-round model. Vendor partners, like himagine, want to place their top talent in long-term assignments so making a long-term commitment for HCC coders can help you attract – and keep – the best coders.
2. Build a committed team by offering long-term positions
In today’s environment, high turnover for HCC coders is common. If another company can offer higher pay and longer-term projects, who can blame a coder for taking the better opportunity? When you hire HCC coders for long-term, full-time positions, coders benefit from the advantages of full-time jobs (e.g., insurance, paid time off, 401K, and most importantly, job security) and they are more likely to be invested in their role and in supporting your organization’s long-term commitment to a common goal. You also ensure the quality of your coding and productivity of your team because you can invest in ongoing education and training to achieve and sustain optimum coding.
3. Build a quality-centric HCC coding model by implementing an ongoing quality assurance and education program
A successful quality program requires ongoing reviews followed by targeted education to ensure that coders understand and correct errors and can sustain quality improvements. In a seasonal HCC coding model, it’s difficult to conduct ongoing quality reviews. A year-round model, however, allows your coders to receive feedback and training throughout the year, before an error is repeated and more difficult and time-consuming to reverse.
4. Do more with the information you gather (CDI)
Capturing data throughout the year can provide valuable information that might be missed during the rush of “risk season.” For example, himagine works with a client that takes a year-round HCC coding approach. We can partner with their education department in building and delivering the education necessary not only for HCC coding, but for clinical documentation improvement (CDI). Better documentation leads to more specific ICD-10 coding and provides the linkage necessary for chronic conditions.
5. Optimize revenue
As we illustrated in our blog post, ABC’s of HCC’s, HCC coding experts need to be viewed as a specialty division of coding because in addition to following ICD-10 coding principles and guidelines, they have a specialty focus on the risk-adjusted guidelines. More importantly, this specialty niche of coders can improve or reduce revenue. That is why it is so important to make an investment in your HCC coding team and provide the level of support needed to ensure ongoing productivity and quality.
Year-round HCC code capture is the wave of the future and we feel the future is now – and ripe for the consideration and mindful thought to put this process in place to benefit providers, healthcare systems and the industry as a whole.