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How do U Write A

Omar S. Darwish, MS, DO
Hospitalist, Assistant Professor of Medicine
Department of Medicine
October 9, 2014


S To learn How to Write the Key Elements of Writing a History and

Physical/Admission Note

S To know common misconceptions of writing a progress note

S To learn how to make your note have “purpose”

S To learn how to Write a Concise and Valued Discharge Note

Why is it Important?

S A way to communicate with specialist, nurses, speech/physical

therapy, case managers, or anyone who is involved in the care of
the patient.

S Appropriate utilization review and quality of care evaluations.

S Collection of data that may be used for research and education.

S Accurate and timely claims review and payment.

Common Misconceptions

S The More I document, the More Money the Hospital gets

reimbursed; therefore, every problem and every organ on my
exam needs to be documented

S Anyone who reads my last progress note should be able to know

everything about the patient’s past history and every event and
lab that has already been ordered during a hospitalization so
that the person doesn’t have to look at prior notes.
Writing a Note Just to please?

S Writing a note just to please someone else

S Examples include
S Giving the trend of Hemoglobin
S Given a long explanation of why something isn’t when it is
obvious. Example: This is less likely PE given that the patient is
not tachycardic, D-Dimer is normal, their oxygenation is normal,
and they are not short of the breath and the CT angio is negative.
(An exaggeration, but you get my point)
S Giving the definition of Sepsis. this happens a lot!!! Please stop.
History and Physical

S Research has shown that physicians make the diagnosis

from the patient’s history in 70-90% of cases.
S With a good history, exam, and preliminary date obtained
from ER physicians, medicine residents should be able to
formulate and therefore write a good assessment/plan
S A lot of the history has to do with asking the right questions
and forming it in a way that the patient can understand.
An example

S 55 year old man with past history of lung cancer, coronary

artery disease, COPD, hypothyroidism presents with
progressive worsening of shortness of breath for 2 days. He
admits to having a cough and wheezing, but no
fevers/chills. No chest pain.

S What is the most likely cause?

Better Way

S 55 yo man presents with shortness of breath x 2 days. At baseline has SOB with
exertion but he says now it is happening while at rest. He said 2 days ago while
watching TV he felt a sudden onset of SOB and broke out in a sweat. He denied
any fevers/chills. He says he has a cough and some wheezing but this hasn’t
changed for the past 2 years.

S The patient has a history of lung cancer diagnosed 2 years ago and his last
chemotherapy was 2 weeks ago. He denies any recent surgeries, calf pain, or history
of DVT or PE.

S Patient has a history of MI 2006 with 2 stents placed in the LAD and is taking
Aspirin 81, Coreg 6.25 bid, and simvastatin 20 mg po qday.

S ER course: afebrile, HR 94, BP 110/67, O2 sat 95% on RA, RR 22. patient had an
CXR which showed hyperinflated lung fields. He was given Solumedrol and
Ceftriaxone/Azithromycin, blood cultures were drawn.
Other parts of the History

S Patient here for abdominal pain:

S You document: Family history: mother died at 87 from
myocardial infarction. (Even if the patient was here for chest
pain, this family history isn’t significant)
S Better: No history of GI cancers.

S Social History: Important: Allows you to connect with your

patient. Ask in a way they have never been asked. So this is more
for you to understand who your patient is: e.g. works at a bakery,
married with 3 children, doesn’t use illicit drugs.
Assessment/Plan on Admission
Do’s and Don’ts of Writing an Assessment/Plan on Admission
S Don’t give a 1 paragraph past medical history and then state the problems.
Your reader can read the past medical history that you wrote above.

S Don’t use the word “Consider” or state that you are going to do something if
something happens. E.g. If patient is unstable, will send to ICU. Avoid
nephrotoxins, consider increasing Metoprolol, Replete Lytes when needed

S Do give level of severity of symptom or diagnostic lab value SO use

“adjectives” E.g. Severe DKA, Severe, life-threatening hypokalemia. This
tells the reader that you have identified their severity of illness. Of course you
need to have medical knowledge; so ask!

S Do assess your DVT risk as Low, Intermediate and High and if not on
anticoagulation give reasons why.

S Be careful what you write

S Best example: Chest Pain.
S If you use the word “atypical” you are telling your audience that the
chest pain is cardiac in origin. So, if you meant to say that its
noncardiac, then write just that.
S By advice to you is that if a patient comes in with chest pain to write
down if you are concerned that it is cardiac or not. Particularly if they
don’t have a history of cardiac disease. Stay away from words like stable
or unstable angina. A patient who presents to you for the first
time with so called “stable” angina is not so stable. If you use the words
unstable angina, then the patient needs to be on heparin gtt or Lovenox.
S So, I recommend that you write: Acute Chest Pain, concerned its cardiac
in origin: given troponins are normal, will order a stress test tomorrow
Progress Note:
Have Purpose

S What do I mean?
S Don’t right a note just for the sake of writing a note

The note should reflect WHAT YOU DID THAT DAY AND
4 Areas

S Subjective

S Exam

S Date

S Assessment/Plan

S Please Do not Write S Focus on

S “No Events Overnight” You S Patient’s Chief Complaint
Mean nothing bad happened? S Patient’s Pain, eating, bowel
S Did you tell your reader movements, ambulation,
anything by writing this sleep
statement? S Use comparative words
(more, less, better, worse)
Patient’s Are Concerned about
their Pain

S Subjective
S Always ask a patient if they have pain and have them rate the
Subjective: Don’t Write…

S This is not where you record that the patient didn’t like her
meal or the TV didn’t work, etc.

S It is also not where you record lab findings or study results

that returned overnight.

S Everyone has a template

S Please Use It, but on your first progress note make it “real”

S Regardless of the medical problem, some doctors like the

heart, lungs, and abdomen examined on every patient. You
won’t be wrong to do this but it is not always necessary.

S Gen: NAD, alert and oriented x 3
S Comfortable, sitting up in bed
S Vitals: BP 120/80, HR 80, RR 14, O2 SAT 99
S Vitals: BP 120/80, HR 80, RR 14, O2 SAT 99
S CTAB and Breathing comfortably
S CV: RRR no m/r/g
S Lungs: CTAB, no wheezing/rales/rhonchi
S Abd: soft, ND, less tender epigastric area
S Abdomen: mild TTP, ND,
S Ext: no edema, R peripheral line, no signs of
S Ext: no edema, no cyanosis infection
S Neuro: no focal deficits S GU: foley catheter, clear urine in foley bag
S Skin: no rashes

S Don’t Cut and Paste Imaging findings and echo reports

S When you summarize, it tells the reader that you reviewed the
report and put thought behind it. Cutting and pasting data does
not show that you understood the report.
S Keeps the note clean/not so busy. People want to know your
thoughts; if they want the report, they can go to the report
S Don’t worry you are not going to make a mistake if you
Assessment/Plan for Progress

S Probably the Most difficult Part of the Note for a Student,

Intern, and Resident
Assessment/Plan, Progress Note
The Formula

S The formula:
S Symptom/Diagnosis, (IMPROVING,
S If a Symptom, follow it with a differential diagnosis
S The number of dd varies
S Your plan should include workup to support or
exclude a dd
Choose One…

S A. Acute Dyspnea-improving, Differential ischemic heart

disease and less likely PE. Will get troponins.

S B. Acute Dyspnea most likely anxiety attack-no change, but

concerned for ischemic heart disease and Pulmonary
embolism based on risk factors.
S start Ativan 1 mg q6, check troponins and get a CT angio
Must Know the
S Altered Mental Status S Encepalopathy
S Delirium if an identifiable cause is S Acute on Chronic Systolic Heart
known e.g. infection, drug Failure, Acute Systolic heart
S CHF Failure, Acute diastolic HF
S Respiratory Distress S Acute Hypoxic Respiratory
failure, Acute Hypercapneic
S SIRS Respiratory Failure
S Malnourished, S Sepsis, Pancreatitis at least give a
S Hypertensive Urgency/Emergency differential when writing SIRS.
S Protein –Calorie Malnutiriton,
S Accelerated or Malignant
What about Delirium?

S From the Coding world, Delirium is a mental disorder or a

S Encephalopathy is defined as a neurological diagnosis that can be
further classified as toxic or metabolic
S Therefore, the term delirium is best reserved for psychiatric
conditions unrelated to underlying systemic conditions.
S So if your patient becomes delirious overnight and you identify an
infection. You should write: Sepsis encephalopathy and if not
septic, write down Metabolic Encephalopathy 2nd UTI.

S Toxic encephalopathy
S Metabolic Encephalopathy
S Drugs, e.g. Alcohol
S Fever
S Toxins/poisons
S Dehydration
S Medications (e.g. Dilantin overdose)
S Electrolyte imbalance
S Acidosis
S Infection (septic
S Organ failure (Uremia and
Hypertension – Don’t get upset

S The Coding world doesn’t recognize hypertensive urgency and emergency

or hypertensive crisis. These terms will be classified as a non-specific or
benign hypertension code having virtually no clinical significance.

S Archaic terms such as accelerated and malignant are used in the coding
world and they simply haven’t caught up with us.

S Solution: Hypertensive Urgency due to Accelerated HTN or

Hypertensive Urgency/Accelerated HTN; Hypertensive Emergency due to

Malignant HTN or Hypertensive Emergency/Malignant HTN
Protein-Calorie Malnutrition

S Why is it important to Identify protein-calorie malnutrition

S Signifies a higher mortality, therefore denotes severity of illness
S With such a severity of illness identified this typically means
that a lot of time and effort was needed by YOU to care for
such an individual
Malnutrition related ICD-9 codes
ICD-9 codes related to Type of Comorbidity associated
nutrition with ICD-9

S 260 Kwashiorkor S MCC Coding Needs To

S 261 Nutritional Marasmus Reflect the Severity of
S MCC Illness of a Patient
S 262 Other Severe Protein-Calorie
S MCC It’s Important to State
S 263.0 Malnutrition of Moderate Why the Patient has
Degree S None Such a Diagnosis,
S 263.1 Malnutrition of Mild Degree e.g. Malignancy,
S None
S 263.8 Other Protein-Calorie
AIDS, Chronic
Malnutrition Disease such as
S 263.9 Unspecified Protein-Calorie
COPD, CHF. A plan
S CC does not necessarily
need to be
S 278.1 Morbid Obesity
S None documented.
S 799.4 Cachexia

I can’t breathe…
Don’t Write “Respiratory

S Non-specific terms that do not reflect any significant

respiratory problem
S Hypoxia
S Severe dyspnea
S Respiratory insufficiency
S Respiratory distress
I can’t breathe…
Write this…
S Acute Respiratory Failure
S pO2 <60 mm Hg (GOLD STANDARD) or SpO2 (pulse
oximetry) <91% breathing room air
S pCO2 >50 and pH <7.35
S P/F ratio (pO2 / FIO2) <300
S pO2 decrease or pCO2 increase by 10 mm Hg from baseline (if

Acute Hypoxic Respiratory Failure

Acute Hypercapnaic Respiratory Failure
Acute on Chronic Hypercapnaic Respiratory Failure
Patients on Home Oxygen should be identified as Chronic Hypoxic Respiratory
An example

S 55 year old with hypothyroidism, diabetes, and HTN

admitted NEW acute heart failure

S What should my A/P be on the progress note say?

S Do I need to mention all the medical problems?

It depends…

S Acute Heart Failure of Unknown type – improving,

Differential includes HTN or new ischemia
S Continue with Lasix 20 mg IV bid
S Await echocardiogram results

Diabetes, HTN, and hypothyroidism are all chronic conditions and of

those diabetes and HTN are conditions that should be mentioned
particularly at the beginning of a hospitalization. From my
experience, most patients are in the hospital for 3-4 days and so such
conditions should be documented during the first 3-4 days. If other
acute conditions start occurring and HTN and diabetes are controlled
then these conditions do not need to be mentioned everyday.
S Hypertension with heart disease – controlled
S Continue with Lisinopril 20 mg po qday

S Type II Diabetes with peripheral neuropathy – inpatient

sugar goals are met
S Continue with Lantus 20 units qHS and Neurontin 100 mg po

S Don’t Just Write: DVT/GI prophylaxis on heparin

Surgeon General’s Call to Action to
Prevent DVT and PE 2008

S Annual incidence VTE 350,000-600,000/year (underestimate?)1,2

S 28,000 pts/year die of VTE3 (underestimate?)

S 30% die after 3 months4  100,000-180,000 die/year

S More deaths than breast cancer, MVAs, and AIDS combined

S Most are hospital related

S Significant cost and morbidity (recurrent DVT/PE, post-thrombotic

1. Silverstein MD, Heit JA, Mohr DN, Petterson TM, O’Fallon WM, Melton LJ, 3rd. Trends in the incidence of deep vein thrombosis and
pulmonary embolism: a 25-year population-based study. Arch Intern Med 1998;158(6):585-93.
2. U.S. Census Bureau News. Nation’s Population to reach 300 Million on Oct. 17. U.S. Department of Commerce Public Information Office.
October 12, 2006. Available at:
3. Horlander KT, Mannino DM, Leeper KV. Pulmonary embolism mortality in the United States, 1979-1998: an analysis using multiple-cause
mortality data. Arch Intern Med 2003;163(14):1711-7.
4. Heit JA, Silverstein MD, Mohr DN, Petterson TM, O’Fallon WM, Melton LJ, 3rd. Predictors of survival after deep vein thrombosis and
pulmonary embolism: a population-based, cohort study. Arch Intern Med 1999;159(5):445-53.
FY 2013 Organizational Goals
1. Reduce pressure ulcers to below the CALNOC mean (pressure ulcers /
patients observed)

2. Improve Care of Patients with Severe Sepsis – Increase the percentage of

patients who receive antibiotics in appropriate time frame to 60%

3. Achieve an Average Length of Stay (excluding Psych) of 5.7

Surgical Care Improvement Project

S Currently for surgical patients there are 2 measures that are

being assessed:
1. Ordering of thromboprophylaxis
2. Receiving treatment within 24 Hours Prior
to Surgery to 24-72 Hours After Surgery.
2005 Medi-Cal Hospital Waiver

S First off, does it matter? At times we are the primary

patients for surgical patients and so making sure patients are
on VTE prophylaxis is on us as well
S On the medical side, the financing of Medi-Cal payments to
hospitals will be based on OUR PERFORMANCE
measures that we set
S VTE makes up a component of the 17 billion dollars that
we can receive!
UCIMC VTE Risk Assessment & Treatment Algorithm
Risk Factors for VTE
Age > 40 Chemo/XRT ± Cancer Major surgery

BMI ≥ 30 High estrogen state Prior VTE

Immobile IBD Trauma

Heart Failure Clotting disorder OCP

Spinal Cord Injury Smoking Venous Stasis

Paralysis Pregnancy At an outside hospital for >2 days

prior to transfer to UCI
Acute illness (CVA, infection) Erythropoiesis stimulant use Central Line or PICC use

Low Risk High Risk

Moderate Risk •Characteristics
•Characteristics •One or more medical risk
• Age <40, BMI<30 and no •Medical/Surgical patient
risk factors OR factor and high risk surgery
with at least 1 risk factor (THA, hip
•Ambulatory patient with and length of stay ≥1 day
low risk surgery and length hemiarthroplasty, TKA,
•Treatment Hip/pelvis/lower extremity
of stay <1day OR
•Pharmacological ± fracture, major multiple
•Pregnant patient without
SCDs trauma, acute spinal injury
hypercoaguable state
•Treatment with paresis,
abdominal/pelvic cancer
•Treat with early and
aggressive ambulation TID
•Pharmacological & SCDs
GI Prophylaxis
ASHP guidelines
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists


If you are curious…

S Progress Notes
S Have 3 Levels of Coding
S To Get to Level 3 in a progress note INPATIENT you must
meet the following:
S 2 out 3 of the following
S Detailed History (C/C with 4 HPI elements, min 2 ROS)
S Detailed Exam (12 bullets)
S High Complexity Medical Decision Making
Decision Making
S Broken down into
S Problem Points
S Data Points
S Level of Risk
Problem Points
Data Points
Level of Risk, e.g High Risk
Assess Decision Making for
Each of These…


Acute Renal Failure 2nd Dehydration Diabetes stable, RISS

--IV fluids at 125 ml/h Hypertension, stable, continue c

--check UA, order renal ultrasound
Hyperlipidemia, stable, continue with
--check Chem 7 tomorrow statin

--obtain old records to see pt’s baseline Hypothyroidism, stable, continue c

creatinine. meds
Discharge Summary

S Make sure you state severity of illness in discharge summary,

Protein calorie malnutrition, hyponatremia

S Don’t tell anyone what happened in the middle… Just tell them
the beginning and the end.

S Your goal is to make the transition between inpatient to

ambulatory setting or other facility smooth.

S Have a separate section that gives a patient Discharge Instructions.

S HPI: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

S Discharge Diagnosis:
S Acute Renal Failure 2nd dehydration form diarrhea
S Acute Diarrhea 2nd C. diff
S Hyponatremia Hypovolemia 2nd diarrhea
S Type II Diabetes c peripheral neuropathy
Hospital Course: 55 yo man presented with acute diarrhea and fond to have acute renal
failure with creatinine of 3. C.diff was + and patient started on Flagyl with clinical
improvement and IV hydration improved creatinine to 1.3.

Discharge Instructions: -Patient to take Flagyl 500 tid for 10 days

- Drink 1.5-2.0 Liters of water/day
-f/u with Dr. X to see if Flagyl needs to be continued further
and continue working on achieving better blood sugar control

S Have Purpose when writing your notes

S Your Note actually Defines You in terms of how you

approach your patient and your clinical reasoning