Health Information Management

A Note from the ACDIS Director: The passing of an industry great

CDI Strategies, May 19, 2016

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Robert S. Gold, 1942-2016
If you’ve ever read an issue of HCPro’s flagship newsletter Medical Records Briefing … if you’ve ever picked up an issue of Briefings on Coding Compliance Strategies and turned to the column “Clinically Speaking”… if you’ve been a regular listener of HCPro’s HIM or CDI audio conferences or webinars… if you’re a member of the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS) and subscribe to the CDI Talk newsgroup or listened to an ACDIS quarterly conference call, chances are you’ve encountered the phenomenon known as Robert Gold, MD.
For the better part of 20 years Dr. Gold has been a fixture in the HCPro and the ACDIS community, authoring countless articles, several handbooks, and speaking on numerous webcasts and audio conferences. He served two terms on the ACDIS advisory board, helping ACDIS get off the ground by serving as an inaugural board member from 2007-2010.
Last week his one of a kind voice was silenced. Dr. Gold lost a battle with cancer that began last year, passing away at the age of 74. We’re all saddened by his loss, and the coding and CDI communities are greatly diminished by it.
A graduate of Hahnemann Medical College, Dr. Gold trained in general surgery in the U.S. Navy where he spent his professional career as a practicing surgeon. After leaving the service, he worked as a consultant in the fields of managed care medicine, locum tenens, home health, hospital accreditation and licensure. Later Dr. Gold co-founded DCBA, Inc. (short for Documentation Coding and Billing Accuracy). There he quickly gained a reputation as a consultant who married clinical knowledge with coding expertise. His clinical acumen, knowledge of medical coding and billing, and easy, engaging manner allowed him to bridge the gap between healthcare delivery and the business of medicine. And he did it with his own unique, caring, personal, and inimitable style.
I had a chance to watch Dr. Gold at work a couple years ago. He was in town near our home office on assignment at Beverly Hospital and invited me to pay him a visit. There I got to see him work with a small CDI team as they reviewed patient charts together on the floor. He was a patient, engaging teacher, asking questions of the CDI nurses about the nature of the patients they were seeing and encouraging them to use their critical thinking skills through a series of probing questions.
I learned a lot that day about what CDI specialists do and the difficult detective work it takes to ferret out diagnoses and comorbidities, drawing inferences from physicians’ clinical decision making and often from incomplete and imprecise documentation. But I also learned a lot about Dr. Gold.
With the news of his passing several tributes and remembrances made their way into our inboxes. Here is just a sampling:
Dr. Gold challenged us to look through another lens, and with that, he helped us grow. He will forever be remembered. 
--Karen Newhouser, RN, BSN, CCM, CCDS, CCS, CDIP, Director of Education, MedPartners 
Certainly a legacy! A man that has challenged, inspired, and directed CDI to capturing the nature of clinical care. Always motivating change! He will be missed, but remembered.
–James Fee, MD, CCS, CCDS, Vice President, Enjoin
Dr. Gold was excellent with people. He never talked down to anyone. He helped doctors think outside the box.
--Lamar Blount,President, American Benefit Advisors (ABA) & Health Law Network (HLN)
Dr. Gold has been a ‘legend’ in the industry, always deeply concerned about ‘getting the correct diagnosis’ reported, and calling it like he saw it. I did not always agree with his final views, but I always knew where he stood, and for that, I admired his convictions, dedication, and passion. Few were as passionate or dedicated as he…several times he called me in order to discuss various issues. I have to say I was impressed that he would care so much to reach out to a me, a person he did not really know. May he rest in peace.
--Paul Evans, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, CCDS, Manager, Regional Clinical Documentation, Sutter West Bay
Right up to the end Dr. Gold was deeply involved in the healthcare industry. He was due to present at the ACDIS conference next week. At the time of his passing he had been working with the ICD-10 Coordination and Maintenance Committee to fix some ongoing cardiology issues in ICD-10, including proposals he had put forth to break down heart failure into right, left and biventricular, add HFrEF and HFpEF as alternate phrases for systolic and diastolic (now passed), stratify New York Heart Association heart failure classes, add end stage heart failure, and reclassify atrial fibrillation.
He had irons in the fire at AHA Coding Clinic, seeking clarification on what he saw as imperfections in the marriage of medical codes with clinical practice. He was writing to me, and to current ACDIS Advisory Board members, regarding suggestions for reconciling current ICD-10 limitations with the newly released definitions of sepsis and septic shock.
For those that got to know Dr. Gold he revealed himself as a caring, compassionate, big-hearted man underneath his occasionally gruff exterior. On a couple occasions he invited our CDI Boot Camp instructors out to his home in Atlanta to see his gardens and his extensive baseball card collection. He loved Halloween and each year decorated his home with an awesome, sprawling display of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, delighting thousands of neighborhood children.
Dr. Gold cared about the clinical truth. He cared about medical codes and the powerful truths they can convey when reported with accuracy. But most of all he cared about people. And for that, we’ll miss him.
Farewell Dr. G.
Brian Murphy
Director, ACDIS


Read Dr. Gold’s obituary online: . Per the obituary, In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Winship Cancer Foundation at Emory or planting trees in Israel in his memory are fitting honors. 

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