RaDonda Vaught was just sentenced to three years of supervised probation. The former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse was found guilty of negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult in the death of a patient, because she administered vecuronium rather than Versed.
A tired, overworked nurse could not find the prescribed medication in an automatic drug dispensing cabinet, so she used an override and grabbed the wrong drug. Her patient died, and she was convicted of two felonies.
Burnout is a pervasive evil in any industry. But in healthcare, the stakes are measured in lives, and a career-ending error could also land a well-meaning provider in court, battling more than a malpractice suit.
The Rise and Fall and Rise of Physician Burnout
A study from 2019 demonstrated a decline in physician burnout [Source]. Good timing, as the burnout decline preceded an overall healthcare worker burnout event rivaling the black plague at a drag strip. Just one year after publication, COVID-19 ushered in the worst, longest, darkest season of overwork, stress and burnout the healthcare industry has seen in a century.
And with the industry marching predictably toward Value-Based Care, onboarding a new clinician comes with a massive learning curve. Requiring providers to add HCC coding to their already complex workflow is not only vital to improve the industry, it is increasingly mandated by CMS.
Add to it that none of this HCC coding was taught in medical school, and you have a perfect storm that even Clooney & Wahlberg would struggle to make sexy.
Why do they make it so hard?
The rising tide of burnout and the steady growth of VBC and HCC coding knowledge form enough of a riptide of impossibility for today’s practitioners. But the teaching methods being used to bludgeon new codes into the weary minds—and workflows—of new residents and established docs alike are downright cruel. Consider that HCC coding education is being deployed using some of the most arcane and ineffective teaching tools available today.
1 hour seminars are the lingua franca across nearly every provider group in a risk payment model. And if sitting in a classroom being talked at while pretending not to stare blankly at your phone was not bad enough, the two worst years in most providers’ careers were met by shifting those interminable seminars to a Zoom call, probably on your phone.
Consider the vital role that HCC coding plays in capturing critical diagnoses to be treated, documenting those diagnoses to keep them treated, and billing against Risk Adjustment scores to reimburse for essential healthcare services that keep patients out of the hospital.
And we are teaching these skills over a Zoom call? With providers more burnt-out than ever, and Zoom fatigue at a universal high – we are lecturing doctors on HCC coding over their phones? Is it a surprise that engagement is low? Is it a surprise that errors are high? Or that adoption of full risk models is sluggish at best?
And yes, one-to-one coaching is the gold standard, and those who provide this mission-critical service should be heralded in the streets and welcomed with ticker-tape parades. This is heroic work. But with global workforce shortages, there are definitely not enough coaches to tackle the task at hand. Not for all the clinicians in desperate need of a rapid increase in their fund of knowledge on VBC and HCC coding.
Is there really no other way?
Full disclosure: this is a blog post by a brand that has pioneered another way to teaching HCC coding to doctors. And it really works. But we are not here to sell you our solution. At the moment, we are only here to say as loudly and as clearly as we can that Ye Olde Ways™ are not working. And if there is a better way—which there is—we need to be running toward it like actual lives depended on it. And not just patient lives – doctor lives, nurse lives, NPs and PAs and coders and operators and the IT team, too. There is a lot at stake, and it’s time to search for answers.
If HCC Coding and Physician Burnout are at all on your radar, we’d love to share a solution to both. Better solutions are out there – and they outperform seminars and code-of-the-month email blasts for engagement and results. And they free up your coaches to focus on the 20% that need it the most.
To learn more, book a conversation with our team!