Prospective, blinded evaluation of accuracy of operative reports dictated by surgical residents

Am Surg. 2005 Aug;71(8):627-31; discussion 631-2.


Incomplete or inaccurate operative notes result in delayed, reduced, or denied reimbursement. Deficient reports may be more common when dictated by the surgical residents. We performed a blinded study to assess the accuracy of residents' dictations and their effect on the appropriate level of coding for reimbursement. A prospective, blinded study was performed comparing operative reports dictated by senior surgical residents (postgraduate years 3, 4, and 5) to reports dictated by attending surgeons. All residents had previously undergone group instruction on the importance and structure of operative notes. The trainees were blinded to the fact that the attending surgeons were dictating the operative reports on a separate dictation system. The dictations were analyzed by faculty reimbursement billing personnel for accuracy and completeness. Fifty operative reports of general surgical procedures dictated by both surgical residents and attending physicians were reviewed. A total of 97 CPT codes were used to report services rendered. Residents' dictations resulted in incorrect coding in 14 cases (28% error rate). The types of inaccuracies were a completely missed procedure (4) and insufficient documentation for an appropriate CPT code and/or modifier (10). All deficiencies occurred in complex, multicode, and/or laparoscopic cases. Sixty-seven per cent of late dictations were incomplete. The financial analysis revealed that deficiencies in resident dictations would have reduced the reimbursement by $18,200 (9.7%). For cases with deficient dictations, 29.5 per cent of charges would have been missed, delayed, or denied if the resident-dictated note was used to justify charges. Operative reports dictated by surgical residents are often incomplete or inaccurate, likely leading to reduced or delayed reimbursement. Dictations of complex, multicode, or laparoscopic surgeries, especially if delayed beyond 24 hours, are likely to contain significant deficiencies that affect billing. Attending surgeons may be better equipped to dictate complex cases. Formal housestaff education, mentorship by the attending faculty, and ongoing quality control may be paramount to minimize documentation errors to ensure appropriate coding for the services rendered.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Current Procedural Terminology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health, Reimbursement / standards
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Medical Records / standards*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Specialties, Surgical*