Inadequate attention to the integrity of clinical documentation in EHRs could compromise the usefulness of these records for patient care and quality reporting as well as business, compliance, and legal uses, according to testimony given recently by AHIMA to the Office of the National Coordinator HIT Policy Committee.
Michelle Dougherty, MA, RHIA, CHP, director of research and development for the AHIMA Foundation, said in her testimony on the “Role of Clinical Documentation for Legal Purposes” that the more than 67,000 HIM professionals represented by AHIMA have identified these challenges with clinical documentation and record management in EHR systems:
“If clinical documentation was wrong when it was used for billing or legal purposes, it was wrong when it was used by another clinician, researcher, public health authority, or quality reporting agency,” said Dougherty. “It’s crucial to address data quality and record integrity now before health information exchanges (HIEs) become widespread.”
Although the envisioned changes in healthcare delivery and payment systems are not attainable without the rapid increase of HIT, it is important to pay equal attention to the quality of the data that will be shared. EHRs have created a seismic shift in the clinician’s workflow and document process which requires establishment of best practices to ensure quality data is shared, Dougherty said.
AHIMA recommended that policymakers and leaders make the following actions priorities to address clinical documentation:
“EHRs offer so much potential, but standards of practice haven’t been adopted across all systems,” said Dougherty. “This can lead to clinicians checking off services they haven’t performed or material being incorrectly copied and pasted. In addition, sometimes when a full medical record is needed, EHRs produce information that is redundant, difficult to read, and not comprehensive.”
“HIM professionals can help ensure that electronic health records reach their full potential by assisting healthcare organizations, the government, EHR vendors and other stakeholders develop procedures to make sure the material collected is accurate and that it is clear who and when the information was entered,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA.
The testimony was for the HIT Policy Committee’s Meaningful Use Workgroup and Certification and Adoption Workgroup. The information collected will inform deliberations on stage 3 of meaningful use.
AHIMA’s testimony can be found here.