The following from Orthopedic Coding Alert should help:
Knowing when to report modifiers and choosing the best one for each situation can be an easy trip-up for coders. If you find yourself especially befuddled by modifier 25 (Significant, separately identifiable evaluation and management service by the same physician on the same day of the procedure or other service), keep reading for real-world tips that will help you code confidently every time.
Starting point: Remember you can only consider reporting modifier 25 when coding an E/M service. If the procedures you’re reporting don’t fall under E/M services, check whether the encounter qualifies for modifier 59 (Distinct procedural service) instead.
1. Verify That Service Is Significant
As CPT’s Appendix A explains, a significant and separately identifiable service “is defined or substantiated by documentation that satisfies the relevant criteria for the respective E/M service to be reported.” Ask yourself two questions when deciding if your case meets the criteria:
• Could the complaint or problem stand alone as a billable service? A single trigger point injection (20552, Injection[s]; single or multiple trigger point[s], 1 or 2 muscle[s]), for example, qualifies as a stand-alone service you might see in conjunction with an E/M visit.
• Do you have a different diagnosis for the portion of the visit unrelated to the initial service? For example, the patient might be in the office for a planned knee injection, but also complains of shoulder pain during the visit.
Reporting an E/M code with modifier 25 would be appropriate for the services performed and documented concerning the shoulder.
If you can answer “yes” to either question, you’re one step closer to reporting modifier 25.
Example: “My physicians complete a lot of lumbar and cervical injections that have a 0-day global period,” says Mary Baierl, RHIT, CPC, CCA, CMT, a coder with BayCare Clinic, Pain Management and Rehabilitation Medicine in Green Bay, Wis. “When they evaluate the patient in the office, offer an injection, and have time to do the injection that day, we code the injection and include office visit E/M code with modifier 25 as a separately identifiable service.”
2. Check for Additional Work
If the diagnosis remains the same, Quita Edwards, CCS-P, CPC, COSC, CPC-I, owner of CASE Contracting Services in Fort Valley, Ga., says you have a third question to ask: Did your orthopedist perform extra work that went above and beyond the typical pre- or postoperative work associated with the procedure code? Another affirmative answer points you to modifier 25.
Example: A patient comes to your office for a scheduled joint injection. She has received injections to treat knee pain due to osteoarthritis but they don’t provide long-term relief. During the appointment your physician says she needs to begin thinking about surgical intervention. He spends between 30 and 40 minutes discussing the risks and benefits of surgery so the patient can make an informed decision.
Even though the diagnosis you report for the injection and the E/M service will be the same, you can separately report the two services in this case. “The physician spent enough time discussing the surgery to count as significant and separately identifiable from the injection,” Edwards explains. “You can bill an E/M code with modifier 25 based on the amount of time he spent, even though he didn’t evaluate the patient.”
3. Look for Pre-Planning
Modifier 25 is meant for those “oh, by the way” type situations, not procedures that are tied to previous services. Consider these scenarios and whether you think they merit modifier 25, then tune in next month for our experts’ recommendations.
Scenario 1: Your orthopedist sees Mrs. Jones in the office and gives her a prescription for pain medication to help her wrist pain. He says that if this doesn’t help, he’ll give her a wrist injection when she returns. Mrs. Jones returns to the office two weeks later for the injection. Your physician completes another evaluation prior to administering the injection.
Scenario 2: Your physician treats Mrs. Adams for a minor shoulder injury. She returns a few days later because her arm was snatched during activity and she’s experiencing significant pain. The physician completes a full evaluation before prescribing treatment.
Scenario 3: Your surgeon completes total hip arthroplasty on Mr. Brown. Six weeks after the surgery, Mr. Brown returns to your office and sees a different physician because of an ankle sprain
Jen Godreau, CPC, CPEDC
Content Director, SuperCoder.com