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Pulmonology Coding Alert

E/M CODING ~ How to Make Sure Your 99214s Measure Up

Look for more detailed statements, extra elements You can't rely on the number of organ systems or body areas to figure out if your E/M visits with established patients meet the requirements for a 99214. But don't panic: You can bill the 99214s you deserve, if you pay attention to your pulmonologist's documentation and the guidelines from the CMS. Realize No Set Requirement Exists The written guidance from CMS is "extremely vague," says Catherine Brink, CMM, CPC, president of HealthCare Resource Management Inc. in Spring Lake, N.J. CMS will never publish, in actual numbers, how many organ systems or body areas the doctor needs to examine for a level-four established patient office visit (99214, Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least two of these three key components: a detailed history; a detailed examination; medical decision-making of moderate complexity ... usually, the presenting problem[s] are of moderate to high severity; physicians typically spend 25 minutes face-to-face with the patient and/or family). Compare Level-3, -4 Exam Difference CMS does say you need a "detailed" examination for 99214, versus an "expanded problem-focused" examination for 99213 (... an expanded problem-focused history; an expanded problem-focused examination; medical decision-making of low complexity; ... usually, the presenting problem[s] are of low to moderate severity; physicians typically spend 15 minutes face-to-face with the patient and/or family).

An expanded problem-focused exam is a "limited examination of the affected body area(s) or organ system(s) and any other symptomatic or related" areas or systems.

Take note: CMS defines a detailed examination as "an extended examination of the affected body area(s) or organ system(s) and any other symptomatic or related body areas(s) or organ system(s)." In other words, the doctor needs to examine the affected area or system, plus at least one other area. Verify Details Support Such an Exam The only difference between physical exams for 99213 and 99214 is that one is "limited" and the other is "extended," according to the CMS guidelines. Your pulmonologist can review two to seven areas or systems for either code. What's different is how much detail the doctor goes into about each area or system.

Do this: "You cannot just make very short single statements and say that's a detailed exam,"  Brink says. "You have to say in more detail more specific things about the affected body area or organ system."

For example: A patient has a pulmonary problem. If the pulmonologist simply says, "lung fields are clear," that's not a detailed examination, says Alan L. Plummer, MD, professor of medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

But if the pulmonologist notes that "the patient has [...]


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