Commenced in January 2007
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Edition: International
Paper Count: 69469
A Qualitative Study to Analyze Clinical Coders’ Decision Making Process of Adverse Drug Event Admissions

Authors: Nisa Mohan

Abstract:

Clinical coding is a feasible method for estimating the national prevalence of adverse drug event (ADE) admissions. However, under-coding of ADE admissions is a limitation of this method. Whilst the under-coding will impact the accurate estimation of the actual burden of ADEs, the feasibility of the coded data in estimating the adverse drug event admissions goes much further compared to the other methods. Therefore, it is necessary to know the reasons for the under-coding in order to improve the clinical coding of ADE admissions. The ability to identify the reasons for the under-coding of ADE admissions rests on understanding the decision-making process of coding ADE admissions. Hence, the current study aimed to explore the decision-making process of clinical coders when coding cases of ADE admissions. Clinical coders from different levels of coding job such as trainee, intermediate and advanced level coders were purposefully selected for the interviews. Thirteen clinical coders were recruited from two Auckland region District Health Board hospitals for the interview study. Semi-structured, one-on-one, face-to-face interviews using open-ended questions were conducted with the selected clinical coders. Interviews were about 20 to 30 minutes long and were audio-recorded with the approval of the participants. The interview data were analysed using a general inductive approach. The interviews with the clinical coders revealed that the coders have targets to meet, and they sometimes hesitate to adhere to the coding standards. Coders deviate from the standard coding processes to make a decision. Coders avoid contacting the doctors for clarifying small doubts such as ADEs and the name of the medications because of the delay in getting a reply from the doctors. They prefer to do some research themselves or take help from their seniors and colleagues for making a decision because they can avoid a long wait to get a reply from the doctors. Coders think of ADE as a small thing. Lack of time for searching for information to confirm an ADE admission, inadequate communication with clinicians, along with coders’ belief that an ADE is a small thing may contribute to the under-coding of the ADE admissions. These findings suggest that further work is needed on interventions to improve the clinical coding of ADE admissions. Providing education to coders about the importance of ADEs, educating clinicians about the importance of clear and confirmed medical records entries, availing pharmacists’ services to improve the detection and clear documentation of ADE admissions, and including a mandatory field in the discharge summary about external causes of diseases may be useful for improving the clinical coding of ADE admissions. The findings of the research will help the policymakers to make informed decisions about the improvements. This study urges the coding policymakers, auditors, and trainers to engage with the unconscious cognitive biases and short-cuts of the clinical coders. This country-specific research conducted in New Zealand may also benefit other countries by providing insight into the clinical coding of ADE admissions and will offer guidance about where to focus changes and improvement initiatives.

Keywords: adverse drug events, clinical coders, decision making, hospital admissions

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