Patient care provided in the acute setting might not always end with discharge to the patient’s home. Frequently, a hospitalist will transfer the patient to a different unit in the hospital or an off-site facility to receive additional services before returning to their home. When the patient’s condition requires a transfer to a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) unit, a psychiatric unit, a long-term acute-care facility, or a skilled nursing facility, it is important for the hospitalist to identify their role, if any, in the new area of care. Physician billing will depend on several factors:
- A shared medical record;
- The attending of record in each setting; and
- The care rendered by the hospitalist in each setting.
A hospitalist serves as the “attending of record” in an inpatient hospital where acute care is required for a 68-year-old male with hypertension and diabetes who sustained a hip fracture. The care plan includes post-discharge therapy and rehabilitation. When the hospitalist transfers care to a PM&R unit within the same facility for which the hospitalist is no longer the attending of record, they might be asked to provide ongoing care for the patient’s medical conditions (e.g., diabetes and hypertension). The hospitalist’s knee-jerk reaction is to bill for an inpatient consultation for the initial service provided in the transferred setting. This would only be appropriate if the request for opinion or advice involved an unrelated, new condition, and the requesting physician’s intent is for opinion or advice on how to manage the patient and not the a priori intent for the hospitalist to assume the patient’s medical care.
If consultation requirements are met (see “Consulataion Reminder,” p. 20), the hospitalist can report an inpatient consultation code (99251–99255). However, when circumstances do not fully represent the intent or need for consultative services but rather a continuity of the medical care provided during the acute phase of the hospitalization, report the most appropriate subsequent hospital care code (99231–99233) for the initial rehab visit and all follow-up services.
On occasion, the hospitalist will be asked to perform and provide the history and physical (H&P) for the patient’s “sub-acute” phase of care, even though the hospitalist is not the attending of record. This usually happens when the attending of record cannot complete the medical requirements of the H&P, either at all or as comprehensively as the hospitalist. When this occurs, the hospitalist should not report an initial hospital care code (99221–99223) because they are not the attending of record—the physician who admits the patient and is responsible for the patient’s stay in the transferred location.