BACKGROUND - Accurately documenting patient comorbidities and complications improves case-mix representation, coding accuracy, and risk-adjusted mortality estimates for benchmarking. We hypothesized that a progress note template containing comorbidities and complications would improve documentation and teach residents to correctly document comorbidities and complications.
STUDY DESIGN - Surgical residents and patients on three inpatient services were followed for a 1-year prospective cohort study. After a 6-month baseline period, a progress note template was developed and implemented for 6 months, and administrative data were retrieved. Residents were given three case examinations assessing documentation knowledge pre- and postintervention, and a satisfaction survey. Demographics, Charlson comorbidity score, ICD-9 codes, template-specific ICD-9 codes, All Patient Refined (APR)-DRG patient severity, DRG relative weight, predicted mortality (University Healthcare Consortium), pre- and postexam scores, and resident satisfaction were collected.
RESULTS - No difference in age, gender, race, or Charlson comorbidity score existed between pre- and postintervention patient groups. The length of stay decreased from 5.5 days to 4.8 days (p = 0.013). In the intervention group, total ICD-9 codes, template-specific ICD-9 codes, APR-DRG, DRG weight, and UHC predicted mortality had significant increases. Residents exposed to the progress note template improved their knowledge scores from 52% to 63% (p < 0.001), and 73% agreed that the progress note template was an improvement over handwritten notes. Residents not exposed to the progress note template did not improve their scores.
CONCLUSIONS - A progress note template improves documentation of comorbidities and complications, APR-DRG patient severity for benchmarking, and case-mix index, and increases patient-specific predicted mortality. The progress note template also improves surgical residents' documentation knowledge and satisfaction.