How hospitalist services can justify daily care
by Carol Pohlig, BSN, RN, CPC, ACS
Let’s examine a documentation case for hospitalists providing daily care: A 65-year-old male patient is admitted with a left hip fracture. The patient also has hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, which might complicate his care. The orthopedic surgeon manages the patient’s perioperative course for the fracture while the hospitalist provides daily post-op care for hypertension and diabetes.
A common scenario is the hospitalist will provide concurrent care, along with a varying number of specialists, depending on the complexity of the patient’s presenting problems and existing comorbidities. Payors define concurrent care as more than one physician providing care to the same patient on the same date, or during the same hospitalization. Payors often consider two key principles before reimbursing concurrent care:
When more than one medical condition exists and each physician actively treats the condition related to their expertise, each physician can demonstrate medical necessity. As in the above example, the orthopedic surgeon cares for the patient’s fracture while the hospitalist oversees diabetes and hypertension management. Claim submission follows the same logic. Report each subsequent hospital care code (99231-99233) with the corresponding diagnosis each physician primarily manages (i.e., orthopedic surgeon: 9923x with 820.8; hospitalist: 9923x with 250.00, 401.1).
When each physician assigns a different primary diagnosis code to the visit code, each is more likely to receive payment. Because each of these physicians are in different specialties and different provider groups, most payors do not require modifier 25 (separately identifiable E/M service on the same day as a procedure or other service) appended to the visit code. However, some managed-care payors require each physician to append modifier 25 to the concurrent E/M visit code (i.e., 99232-25) despite claim submission under different tax identification numbers.
Unfortunately, the physicians might not realize this until a claim rejection has been issued. Furthermore, payors might want to see the proof before rendering payment. In other words, they pay the first claim received and deny any subsequent claim in order to confirm medical necessity of the concurrent visit. Appeal denied such claims rejections with supporting documentation that distinguishes each physician visit, if possible. This assists the payors in understanding each physician’s contribution to care.
Concurrent care services are more easily distinguished when separate diagnoses are reported with each service. Conversely, payors are likely to deny services that are hard to differentiate. Furthermore, payors frequently deny concurrent care services for the following reasons:
For example, a hospitalist might be involved in the post-op care of patients with fractures and no other identifiable chronic or acute conditions or complications. In these cases, the hospitalist’s continued involvement might constitute a facility policy (e.g., quality of care, risk reduction, etc.) rather than active clinical management. Claim submission could erroneously occur with each physician reporting 9923x for 820.8. Payors deny medically unnecessary services, or request refunds for inappropriate payments.
Hospitalists might attempt to negotiate other terms with the facility to account for the unpaid time and effort directed toward these types of cases.
Physicians in the same group practice with the same specialty designation must report, and are paid, as a single physician. Multiple visits to the same patient can occur on the same day by members of the same group (e.g., hospitalist A evaluates the patient in the morning, and hospitalist B reviews test results and the resulting course of treatment in the afternoon). However, only one subsequent hospital care service can be reported for the day.
The hospitalists should select the visit level representative of the combined services and submit one appropriately determined code (e.g., 99233), thereby capturing the medically necessary efforts of each physician. To complicate matters, the hospitalists must determine which name to report on the claim: the physician who provided the first encounter, or the physician who provided the most extensive or best-documented encounter.
Tracking productivity for these cases proves challenging. Some practices develop an internal accounting system and credit each physician for their medically necessary efforts (a labor-intensive task for administrators and physicians). TH
Carol Pohlig is a billing and coding expert with the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is faculty for SHM’s inpatient coding course.
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