Recent changes in healthcare have forced academic medical centers to seek additional resources in the delivery of quality care. In response to internal and external pressures to minimize length of stay, adhere to limitations on the maximum number of admitted patients, focus on evidence-based care, and improve outcomes of care, hospitalists have incorporated non-physician providers (NPPs), such as acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs), into their group practices.1
Whereas traditional nurse practitioners focus on the promotion of health and management of chronic illness, ACNPs focus on the care of acutely ill patients. Hospitalists utilize NPPs to expand medical service capacity and improve the efficiency and quality of patient care.2
Research indicates physician/nurse practitioner collaboration in the multidisciplinary management of hospitalized medical patients reduces length of stay and improves hospital profit without altering readmissions or mortality.3 Billing and documentation standards for NPP services must comply with current state and federal regulations. Hospitalist groups should become familiar with these guidelines prior to billing for NPP services involved in this patient care model.
The following highlights inpatient services provided by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs).
Medicare pays for services considered reasonable and necessary and not otherwise excluded from coverage. NPPs may provide any service permitted by the state scope of practice and performed in conjunction with the appropriate level of supervision or collaboration, as outlined in licensure or billing requirements. Being only limited by state and/or facility regulations, NPP services comprise visits or procedures typically rendered by ancillary staff or considered a physician service (a doctor of medicine, MD, or osteopathy, DO). Additionally, NPPs must meet the insurer-specified qualifications.
Since 1998, designated NPPs are allowed to submit Medicare Part B claims for services, including procedures, provided in any inpatient or outpatient setting. For billing purposes, these “independent” services do not require physician involvement (e.g. physician initiation of care plan, physician-patient encounter, or physician presence on patient floor/unit) unless otherwise specified by state legislation or facility standards of practice. NPPs do not need to be employed by the physician group. The entity employing the physician group also may employ the NPP.
Claim requirements mandate the use of a national provider identifier (NPI) on all claims, therefore, all NPPs receive an NPI for claim submission. However, not all NPPs may directly bill Medicare or receive direct payment (e.g., physician assistant).1 In this situation, the NPP employer (i.e., physician or group), reports the service with the physician or group provider number and the NPP’s NPI included for identification of who actually provided the service.