The year 2021 brought many changes in the medical billing landscape. One of the fundamental changes is the revision of office visit and evaluation and management rules, also known as E/M guidelines. E/M services are usually high-volume and can pose a significant compliance risk for a medical practice. The E/M 2021 revision (which came into effect from January 2021) was done to reduce the time it takes to document a patient visit. It was also done to recognize the time physicians spend in performing additional services, such as care coordination.
Here’s a quick recap of the new medical billing rules and tips on implementation at your medical practice.
Revised CMS E/M 2021 Guidelines
- History and physical exam are eliminated as elements for code selection.
- Physicians must document patient consults basis the level of MDM (medical decision making) or total time one date of service.
- The levels of service for new patients have reduced from five to four, while the levels of service for existing patients remains five.
- Code 99201 is deleted.
Here is a summary of the revised codes (Source MGMA).
When a visit takes longer than the time allowed in the new codes, prolonged service code 99417 can be used in 15-minute increments. However, extended services of less than 15 minutes should not be reported.
Time-Based E/ M Reporting
Time-based reporting includes the time a physician or qualified healthcare provider spends on face-to-face, as well as non-face-to-face interactions for ensuring patient care on the date of service. This work includes the following –
- Time spent before the patient arrives for the appointment.
- Time spent in performing necessary health examinations.
- Time to counsel the patient and the family.
- Ordering further tests, writing prescriptions, or advising further medical procedures.
- Issuing a referral for the patient to see a specialist
- Communicating with other healthcare professionals on the patient’s case.
- Time spent documenting the patient’s clinical information in the EHR.
- Reviewing current medical reports and communicating with the patient or family.
Medical Decision Making (MDM)
The level of medical decision-making is based on three factors.
- Number and complexity of health issues addressed.
- The amount and complexity of medical data reviewed. It includes assessment of patient’s historical test reports and documents, independent interpretation of additional medical tests, and discussions done with other physicians/ specialists on the patient’s case.
- The level of additional risk of complications, morbidity, or mortality.
Implementing E/M 2021 Changes in Your Medical Practice
The CMS revamp of the Evaluation and Management (E/M) office visit codes has happened for the first time in twenty-five years. It is a much-demanded change to reduce the documentation burdens that interfere with patient care. An October 2020 MGMA survey on E/M 2021 revealed that only 47 percent of healthcare providers were ready for the new E/M rules.
Here are the steps you need to take to ensure the implementation of the revised guidelines at your medical practice.
- Train your staff and providers on the selection of 2021 E/M office visit codes based on the new guidelines. Download the comprehensive list of E/M 2021 codes for the level of MDM and ask them to sign in for the learning module ‘Office Evaluation and Management (E/M) CPT Code Revisions.’
- Update your compliance policy for the revised codes.
- Ensure that your practice EHR and billing software is updated for the revised 2021 E/M Codes.
- Conduct regular audits to identify deficiencies in the documentation of E/M visits.
- Assess how the implementation is affecting the revenue flows of your medical practice.
Remember that the revised E/M guidelines apply only to office or other outpatient codes (99202 to 99215). For all other E/M services, the guidelines remain unchanged.
Is your medical practice implementing 2021 E/M guidelines in full? Do you have queries or concerns regarding E/M visits billing? Contact us today to book a free consultation session.