Dialing in on Details: The Journey to Improving Clinical Coding Accuracy

Picture this: you just bought your dream car. You spend hours mastering the controls, understanding the nuances, and relishing the smooth ride. But, a week later, you realize your car isn’t driving as it should. The culprit? An incorrect code in the car’s system! In the world of medicine, the situation isn’t much different. The ‘car’ here is our healthcare system, and the ‘codes’ are the clinical codes that are pivotal for smooth operation. In this post, we’ll delve into a study by Esmond Carr and Asha Pillai that enlightens us on how to improve clinical coding accuracy.

The Need for Accurate Clinical Coding

Accurate clinical coding plays a vital role in the functioning of a healthcare system. Coding errors can result in inaccurate representation of a patient’s condition, incorrect billing, and eventually, potential financial loss. In the context of the Payment by Results system, these issues become even more concerning. Yet, Carr and Pillai noticed that many clinicians are not offering concrete suggestions to improve this situation. They believe that it’s the clinicians’ responsibility to ensure their activity is accurately coded and the NHS trust’s responsibility to drive changes for proper remuneration.

A Success Story in Improved Clinical Coding Accuracy

To demonstrate the potential for change, Carr and Pillai recounted a previously published audit. They were able to increase the accuracy of coding from 69% to 95% in a single cycle. Wondering how they achieved this feat? Here’s their three-fold strategy:

  1. Agreement on Coding Procedures: The consultants and coding department reached a mutual understanding of how different procedures should be coded. This created clarity and minimized chances for confusion or discrepancy.
  2. Clinician Education and Responsibility: They stressed educating clinicians about the importance of accurate coding. Moreover, they made clinicians responsible for correctly coding their procedures, creating a sense of ownership and commitment.
  3. Regular Consultations: The team arranged weekly meetings between the coding department and a clinician to discuss difficult cases. This not only helped resolve challenging coding issues but also educated the department about various procedures.

By addressing these fundamental areas, they managed to significantly enhance coding accuracy. Now that’s an achievement!

The Road Ahead for Clinical Coding Accuracy

Carr and Pillai’s experience serves as an excellent example of how we can improve clinical coding accuracy. It highlights the importance of collaboration between clinicians and coding departments, the need for clear agreement on coding procedures, and the benefits of continuous education and engagement.

While it might seem like a simple administrative task, clinical coding is much more. It’s a reflection of the care we provide to our patients, a contributor to our healthcare system’s financial stability, and an avenue for ongoing learning and improvement.

As we drive towards better healthcare, let’s ensure our ‘car’s’ system is well-coded. Because, when it comes to healthcare delivery, every detail counts. Happy coding!

Carr E, Pillai A. Improving clinical coding accuracy. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2010 Jan;92(1):87-8; author reply 88. doi: 10.1308/003588410X12518836439605. PMID: 20056071; PMCID: PMC3024640.

Related Articles


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.