Documentation should support the service provided on a given date, and the information included in the entry should reflect the content that was rendered and/or considered for assessment and management. Information that is pulled forward or copied and pasted from a previous entry should be modified to demonstrate updated content and nonoverlapping care with relevance for that date.
Do not use coding tools, or EHR “service calculators,” that override medical decision-making to determine the service level. Determining the service level for a particular CPT code category depends upon the key components of history, exam, and medical decision-making (MDM).4 For some code categories, each of the three key components must meet the documentation guidelines for the corresponding visit level (i.e. initial hospital care, initial observation care, and consultations). If all three components do not satisfy the requirements for a particular visit level, code selection is determined by the lowest component. For example, the physician must select 99221 when documenting a detailed history despite having also documented a comprehensive exam and high complexity decision-making. In other code categories, coding principles require that only two key components need to meet the documentation guidelines (i.e. subsequent hospital care and subsequent observation care) for code selection.
More specifically, code selection is determined by the second-lowest component. For example, the physician may appropriately select 99233 when only documenting a brief history after having also documented a detailed exam and high complexity decision-making. Based on this “two of three” stipulation, 99233 is acceptable. Service calculators that override MDM as one of the two supporting components in subsequent care services could generate 99233 for a service involving a detailed history and a detailed exam but only low complexity decision-making. Such coding practice can leave the hospitalist vulnerable to external inquiries involving medical necessity and upcoding. Despite this “two component” technicality with subsequent services (99231-99233 and 99224-99226), MDM always should be one of the two key components considered during subsequent visit level selection as it most clearly conveys the medical necessity of the encounter.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The official web site for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health records (EHR) incentive programs. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Available at: http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/index.html?redirect=/ehrincentiveprograms/. Accessed March 10, 2013.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Frequently asked questions (FAQs). Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Available at: http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/FAQ.html. Accessed March 10, 2013.
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Meaningful use. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Available at: http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/Meaningful_Use.html. Accessed March 10, 2013.
- Abraham M, Ahlman J, Anderson C, Boudreau A, Connelly J. Current Procedural Terminology 2012 Professional Edition. Chicago: American Medical Association Press; 2011:13-17.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Inspector General work plan fiscal year 2013. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/archives/workplan/2013/Work-Plan-2013.pdf. Accessed March 11, 2013.