Magazine article American Nurse Today

Is Utilization Review the Career for You? A Utilization Review Nurse Helps Ensure Authorization of Services, Which Minimizes Costs and Maximizes Reimbursement

Magazine article American Nurse Today

Is Utilization Review the Career for You? A Utilization Review Nurse Helps Ensure Authorization of Services, Which Minimizes Costs and Maximizes Reimbursement

Article excerpt

RISING MEDICAL COSTS and healthcare reform have increased the need for careful review and management of medical resources. The unique and vital role of the utilization review (UR) nurse serves this need.

Like many nurses, you may be unfamiliar with the nurse's role in UR. Although the UR concept isn't new, the nature of the role and demands on utilization reviewers have changed dramatically over the years. For some bedside nurses, their first exposure to UR comes when a UR nurse takes them aside to ask about the status or condition of a patient in their care. They may feel threatened in this situation, concerned that the care they've been delivering is being questioned in some way. But in most cases, this is far from the reason for the inquiry. UR nurses are investigative by nature, always searching for essential information to help make certain that the patient's insurer will authorize services. This article describes this rewarding area of nursing practice and clears up common misperceptions about the role.

Goals and nurses' roles

The goal of UR is to control costs while monitoring the quality of patient care. UR nurses critically examine patient medical records, paying close attention to the appropriateness of healthcare expenditures. They rely on their experience, education, and awareness of appropriate review criteria to compile an accurate account of the patient's clinical picture. They're responsible for relaying this information to external reviewers representing third-party payers. Typically, the information includes the patient's presenting complaint, working diagnosis, supporting diagnostic findings, plan of care, and course or progression.

While UR nurses in the insurance and managed-care arenas are on the receiving end of the clinical information, they play an important role in the authorization process. A solid knowledge base, critical thinking skills, and ability to apply evidence-based guidelines are crucial. UR nurses employed by third-party payers typically are expected to follow guidelines when reviewing documentation, such as the MiUiman Care Guidelines[R] or McKesson's InterQual Criteria[R]. But each patient case is unique and may not fit neatly into these guidelines. UR nurses must be able to critically and efficiently decipher each piece of clinical information. (See Types of utilization review.)

Documentation is key

Accurate and appropriate clinical documentation is crucial in UR. Lack of documentation can create many roadblocks for the UR nurse. What's more, the quality of documentation in a patient's record can affect the quality and effectiveness of patient care--and the financial integrity of the healthcare facility. Incomplete documentation and coding can cause hospitals to lose millions of dollars in revenue. By improving documentation, they can expect reductions in coding errors and denied claims, which optimizes reimbursement.

Important documentation includes the patient's condition, extent of change from baseline, treatments required, positive and negative responses to treatment, diagnostic abnormalities, and the patient's progression (or lack thereof) relative to what would be expected. Good documentation provides a clear picture of the patient's acute-care needs as well as abnormal findings. When reviewing documentation of clinical information, UR nurses look for abnormal clinical findings on physical examination, vital-sign measurements, laboratory tests, and imaging studies.

Who employs UR nurses?

UR nurses are employed in inpatient and outpatient clinical settings, the insurance industry, and managed care companies. …

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