Missed Surgical Intensive Care Unit Billing: Potential Financial Impact of 24/7 Faculty Presence

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To efficiently capture evaluation and management (E&M) and procedural billing in our surgical intensive care unit (SICU), we have developed an electronic billing system that links to the electronic medical record (EMR). In this system, only notes electronically signed and coded by an attending generate billing charges. We hypothesized that capture of missed billing during nighttime and weekends might be sufficient to subsidize 24/7 in-house attending coverage.


A retrospective chart EMR review was performed of the EMRs for all SICU patients during a 2-month period. Note type, date, time, attending signature, and coding were analyzed. Notes without attending signature, diagnosis, or current procedural terminology (CPT) code were considered incomplete and identified as "missed billing."


Four hundred and forty-three patients had 465 admissions generating 2,896 notes. Overall, 76% of notes were signed and coded by an attending and billed. Incomplete (not billed) notes represented an overall missed billing opportunity of $159,138 for the 2-month time period (approximately $954,000 annually). Unbilled E&M encounters during weekdays totaled $54,758, whereas unbilled E&M and procedures from weeknights and weekends totaled $88,408 ($44,566 and $43,842, respectively). Missed billing after-hours thus represents approximately $530K annually, extrapolating to approximately $220K in collections from our payer mix. Surprisingly, missed E&M and procedural billing during weekdays totaled $70,730 (approximately $425K billing, approximately $170K collections annually), and typically represented patients seen, but transferred from the SICU before attending documentation was completed.


Capture of nighttime and weekend ICU collections alone may be insufficient to add faculty or incentivize in-house coverage, but could certainly complement other in-house derived revenues to such ends. In addition, missed daytime billing in busy modern ICUs can be substantial, and use of an EMR to identify missed billing opportunities can help create solutions to recover these revenues.



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