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Stop Forfeiting Level Four and Five E/Ms With 3 PFSH Tips

Make your physician’s job easier by letting the patient or nurse document the history.

If your physician glosses over a patient’s past, family, and social history (PFSH), you may be missing out on up to $69 per E/M.  Accurately counting the number of PFSH items could result in more money for an encounter, because the top-level E/M codes require PFSH elements in addition to an extended history of present illness, and more than 1 system reviewed. Learn these three quick tips to ensure your physician is capturing, and you’re recognizing, every history component the patient mentions.

1. Determine the Level of PFSH

For coding purposes, the history portion of an E/M service requires all three elements — history of present illness (HPI), review of systems (ROS), and a past, family and social history (PFSH).  Therefore, the PFSH helps determine patient history level, which has a great effect on the E/M level you can report.  If you do not know the PFSH level, you may have to select a lower level of E/M service than might otherwise be warranted.  There are three levels of PFSH: none, pertinent, and complete, says Leah Gross, CPC, coding lead at Metro Urology in St. Paul, Minn.

Pertinent: To reach a detailed level of history for the encounter (in addition to an extended HPI and the review of 2-9 systems), you need a pertinent PFSH.  According to Medicare’s Documentation Guidelines for E/M Services, you need at least one specific item from any of the three PFSH areas to achieve the pertinent level.  When the physician asks only about one history area related to the main problem, this is a pertinent PFSH.

Complete: To reach a comprehensive level of history for the encounter (in addition to an extended HPI and the…

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$56 Question—Are You Downcóding Your E/M Visits?

You’re not only losing revenue—you’re also coding improperly.

CMS data from previous years shows that medical practices undercodè E/M claims to the tune of over $1 billion annually—that’s money that physiciáns could have collected based on their documentation, but forfeited because they reported a lower-level codè than they should have. But remember that your responsibility as someone who submits claims to Medicarè is to codè based on the documentation—anything else is incorrect coding.

If you’re one of the practices that’s downcoding claims, take note of the following reasons that you should codè based on your documentation rather than undercoding.

Could You Be Triggering an Audit?

The number one reason that many practices undercodè is because they don’t want to “trigger an audit.” However, coding all low-level E/M codès is sure to get a payer’s attention, because the claims reviewers will be wondering why you never offer high-level evaluations to your patients.

When claims reviewers review “bell curves” to determine whether a practice is coding outside the norm, they aren’t just looking for upcoding—they are looking at trends across the board. This means that a practice with all 99212s and 99213s will be vulnerable, because nearly every practice sees more complex patients requiring high-level E/Ms at least once in a while. If an auditor reviews your rècords and determines that you’re deliberately downcoding claims, they’ll conclude that you’ve been coding improperly.

Consider Compliance Implications

If you’re deliberately undercoding your claims to stay under the radar, you’re technically violating the False Claims Act because you are knowingly submitting a false claim. “It’s a violation just as much as deliberate upcoding is a violation, but the government most likely isn’t going to pursue it because ultimately it savès the Medicarè program money,” says John B. Reiss, PhD, JD, a health care attorney…

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Adjust Your Codès Easily When Diágnosis Changes During A Patient’s Hospital Stay

Educate your physicián to keep you in the loop on patients’ development.

Just because a patient enters the hospital with one diágnosis doesn’t mean she’ll have that diágnosis for her entire stay. And if you bill for your physicián’s hospital visits with an out-of-date diágnosis, you could lose money or face fraud charges.

The problem: Diagnoses can change in the hospital due to various reasons, including the following, among others: The physicián may narrow down the patient’s problem. For example, a patient may be admitted with chest páin, and the doctor may rule out myocardial infarction and decide the problem is actually gastrointestinal in nature.

The patient may develop other problems. The patient may be admitted for dehydration problems but may start having chest páins.  The patient may experience complications that lead their original complaint to worsen significantly.  You can’t wait for the hospital to send you medical rècords and hope to bill in a timely fashion. You could be waiting six weeks after the patient gets out of the hospital for any rècords. So it’s up to your physicián to let you know if a patient’s diágnosis has changed.

Do this: Educate your physiciáns, and let them know that just because the patient has been admitted with a particular diágnosis doesn’t mean they should bill for that diágnosis for each visit.  To help your physicián track his hospital visits, you might consider giving each physicián a simple form to rècord these evaluations. The physicián could put a sticker with the patient’s hospital identifier on the form and then write the date of each visit, the level of service and the diágnosis.  Each sheet will have roóm for 10 or 12 patient visits.

Diágnosis Tracking Is In the Cards

Another approach is to give your doctor a…

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Overcome 3 Myths and Claim Reimbursement Opportunities using Modifier 22

Don’t fall for these common body habitus, time, and fee traps.

If you overuse Modifièr 22 (Increased procedural services), you may face increased scrutiny from your payers or even the Office of Inspector General (OIG). But if you avoid the modifièr entirely, you’re likely missing out on reimbursement your cardiologist deserves.

How it works: When a procedure requires significant additional time or effort that falls outside the normal effort of services described by a particular CPT® codè — and no other CPT® codè better describes the work involved in the procedure — you should look to modifièr 22. Modifièr 22 represents those extenuating circumstances that do not merit the use of an additional or alternative CPT® codè but do land outside the norm and may support added reimbursement for a given procedure.  Take a look at these three myths — and the realities — to ensure you don’t fall victim to these modifièr 22 trouble spots.

Myth 1: Morbid Obesity Means Automatic 22

Sometimes, an interventional cardiologist may need to spend more time than usual positioning a morbidly obese patient for a procedure and accèssing the vessels involved in that procedure. In that case, it may be appropriate to append modifièr 22 to the relevant surgical codè. However, it’s not appropriate to assume that just because the patient is morbidly obese you can always append modifièr 22.  “Modifièr 22 is about extra procedural work and, although morbid obesity might lead to extra work, it is not enough in itself,” says Marcella Bucknam, CPC, CCS-P, CPC-H, CCS, CPC-P, COBGC, CCC, Manager of Compliance education for the University of Washington Physiciáns Compliance Program in Seattle.

“Unless time is significant or the intensity of the procedure is increased due to the obesity, then modifièr 22 should not be appended,” warns Maggie Mac, CPC,

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Follow 3 Tips to Improve Your A/R Process and Boost Your Collections

Avoid the ‘code it, bill it, and forget it’ mentality — don’t be afraid to follow up on your claims.

The economic downturn coupled with looming healthcare changes means that your practice — and all others — are under more pressure than ever to collect every penny you deserve.  You can refine your accounts receivable (A/R) process quickly and easily to bring in the money without a lot of extra effort.

A/R defined: “Accounts receivable (A/R) is the money that is owed to the practice,” explains Elin Baklid-Kunz, MBA, CPC, CCS, a director of physician services in Daytona, Fla., during The Coding Institute’s audioconference “Top A/R Tactics: Fight Back Against Lower Payments and Increased Government Scrutiny.”

Follow these three best practices to set your practice on an improved A/R track and avoid thousands in lost reimbursement.

1. Monitor Each Claim You Send Out

The first step in perfecting your A/R process is to make sure someone in your practice is paying attention to what happens to every claim you submit. Ask questions such as: “did the insurance company even receive the claim?” and “Did the patient pay her copay portion of the bill?”  “There are companies out there I call ‘code it, bill it, and forget it companies,’” says coding, billing, and practice management consultant Steven M. Verno, CMBS, CMSCS, CEMCS, CPM-MCS, in The Coding Institute’s audio conference “Reveal and Recover Hidden Money You Didn’t Know You Missed.”

“They code the claim, they bill the claim, and then they forget about it. They leave it out there and don’t do anything to bring the money in. They don’t follow up on the claim.”  Following up on your submitted claims early in the game can save you time. First ensure that once your practice submits a claim that it is…

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CCI Edit: 93454-93461 Note These Column Changes For Correct Cardiology Coding

Correct Coding Initiative version 17.1 brings 11,831 new edit pairs, effective April 1 for physicians. That’s the word from a March 17 announcement by Frank Cohen, principal and senior analyst for the Frank Cohen Group. Here’s a look at the major pointers you need to keep in mind to comply with the new cardiology-related edits, including cardiac catheterization, radiological supervision and interpretation, cardiac rehabilitation, and more.

1. Prevent Denials by Remembering 93454-93461 Are Diagnostic

New edits will prevent you from reporting heart catheter/angiography codes 93454- 93461 (column 2) with the following cardiovascular therapeutic services and procedures (column 1):

  • 92975 — Thrombolysis coronary; by intracoronary infusion, including selective coronary angiography
  • 92980 — Transcatheter placement of an intracoronary stent(s), percutaneous, with or without other therapeutic intervention, any method; single vessel
  • 92982 — Percutaneous transluminal coronary balloon angioplasty; single vessel
  • 92995 — Percutaneous transluminal coronary atherectomy, by mechanical or other method, with or without balloon angioplasty; single vessel.

The 929xx codes in column 1 describe coronary therapies. The 934xx codes in column 2 are diagnostic procedures. You should never use the 934xx diagnostic codes in column 2 to report catheter placement and coronary angiography performed as an integral part of the therapeutic column 1 services.

Opportunity: The edits have a modifier indicator of 1, so you may override them with an appropriate modifier when the procedures are distinct. If you report both codes in the edit pair and don’t append a modifier to the column 2 code, Medicare (and payers applying Medicare rules) will reimburse you for only the column 1 code.

The AMA, via CPT Assistant (April 2005), indicates that you may report a true diagnostic catheterization in addition to the therapeutic procedures described by 92980 and 92982: “These two distinct procedures (diagnostic catheterization and therapeutic procedures), therefore, should…

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Worried about Delayed Pay? Verify Your State’s Prompt Pay Laws

How many times has it happened with you that you submit a clean claim but still don’t get paid even three months later? Do you have any recourse? Yes, thanks to the prompt pay laws that each payer must follow when paying your medical claims.

Verify Which Laws Apply to Your Practice

Each state requires private insurers to pay all clean claims within a certain time frame. If the insurer does not pay the claim in a timely manner, then the payer is subject to paying interest on the charges owed to the practice (or directly to the beneficiary). Most time frames range from 15 to 45 working days, with 30 days about the average.

“If you are a little adventurous, you could search for your state law on the Internet,” says Joseph Lamm, office manager with Stark County Surgeons, Inc. in Massillon, Ohio. Lamm warns, however, that “reading through state laws and their multiple exceptions, references to other sections of state law, and ‘legalese’ can make this a very frustrating exercise.”

“Take advantage of your local or state medical society and the experts they employ to see if your state has a prompt pay law, and to which insurance companies it applies,” Lamm suggests. “The medical societies are on your side and will give you the correct information.”

State prompt pay laws do not apply to federal insurers, because the Federal Government dictates that clean claims must be paid in 30 days for Medicare Part B.

“If a state wants a prompt pay rule that’s longer or shorter, they certainly can do that with reference to other payer services,” says Connie A. Raffa, Esq., partner with Arent Fox, LLP in New York, NY. “But Medicare rules are federal and span across the country.”

If your private payer…

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Two New CPT Codes Lend Specificity to Interstitial Device Coding

Until now, you could not code for the additional service — and hence not get the pay — when your general surgeon placed interstitial devices for radiation therapy guidance during a distinct open or laparoscopic abdominal procedure. But two new CPT 2011 codes for the procedure help you capture all the pay you deserve.

Open, Lap, or Percutaneous Approach Distinguish Placement

Last year, you had one code to use when your surgeon placed an abdominal interstitial device for radiation therapy guidance — 49411 (Placement of interstitial device[s] for radiation therapy guidance [e.g., fiducial markers, dosimeter], percutaneous, intra-abdominal, intra-pelvic [except prostate], and/or retroperitoneum, single or multiple).

“If your surgeon performed the device placement during an open or laparoscopic procedure prior to 2011, you had no way to capture the service,” says Marcella Bucknam, CPC, CCS-P, CPC-H, CCS, CPC-P, COBGC, CCC, manager of compliance education for the University of Washington Physicians Compliance Program in Seattle.

Now CPT 2011 adds two new add-on codes to describe interstitial device placement during another procedure, as follows:

  • +49327 — Laparoscopy, surgical; with placement of interstitial device[s] for radiation therapy guidance [e.g., fiducial markers, dosimeter], intra-abdominal, intrapelvic, and/or retroperitoneum, including imaging guidance, if performed, single or multiple [List separately in addition to code for primary procedure])
  • +49412 — Placement of interstitial device[s] for radiation therapy guidance [e.g., fiducial markers, dosimeter], open, intra-abdominal, intrapelvic, and/or retroperitoneum, including image guidance, if performed, single or multiple [List separately in addition to code for primary procedure]).

Choose +49327 for a laparoscopic approach, and +49412 for an open procedure. “Note that these are add-on codes, which means you can report them only in addition to a primary procedure,” Bucknam advises.

Continue to report 49411 for percutaneous interstitial device placement as a stand-alone procedure.

Use codes 49411, +49412, and +49327…

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CMS: Prove Your Exemption From the E-Prescribing Penalty With New G Codes

Even if you don’t have prescribing privileges, you can rest assured now as CMS will not cut your pay as a penalty for failing to comply with the new e-prescribing incentive program.

As you are probably aware, starting in 2012, you may be subject to a one percent payment adjustment on your Part B pay if you don’t successfully participate in e-prescribing this year. In 2013, that payment adjustment will go up to 1.5 percent, and in 2014 it will rise to two percent, CMS’s Daniel Green, MD noted on a Feb. 15 CMS-sponsored call.

“To earn an incentive in 2011, an eligible professional must e-prescribe 25 times during the year, ten of which must be in the first six months,” Green said. “If they are a successful e-prescriber during the calendar year, they not only would avoid the 2012 payment adjustment, they would get a one percent 2011 payment incentive, and they would be exempt from the 2013 payment adjustment,” he explained.

“Earning an incentive in 2011 does not necessarily exempt the eligible professional or group practice from a payment adjustment in 2012,” Green explained.

How to Avoid the Adjustment

CMS reps said that they’ve been flooded with calls about the 2012 payment adjustment, and described ways that you can avoid the adjustment if you qualify.

Not eligible to prescribe: If you are not a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011, you can avoid the e-prescribing penalty. In addition, if you don’t have prescribing privileges at least once on a claim between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011, you should append G8644 (Eligible professional does not have prescribing privileges) at least once before June 30 to ensure that your MAC knows you are not subject to the penalty, said CMS’s Michelle…

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ICD-10: Prep Yourself for New Hyperlipidemia Codes

When ICD-10 goes into effect in 2013, high cholesterol will still be a challenge for your patients. Here’s a look at how coding for this, and similar diagnoses, compares between ICD-9 and ICD-10.

ICD-9-CM Codes:

  • 272.0, Pure hypercholesterolemia
  • 272.1, Pure hyperglyceridemia
  • 272.2, Mixed hyperlipidemia
  • 272.4, Other and unspecified hyperlipidemia

ICD-10 Codes:

  • E78.0, Pure hypercholesterolemia
  • E78.1, Pure hyperglyceridemia
  • E78.2, Mixed hyperlipidemia
  • E78.4, Other hyperlipidemia
  • E78.5, Hyperlipidemia, unspecified

Change: ICD-10 offers a one-to-one code match with ICD-9 for pure hypercholesterolemia (272.0, E78.0), pure hyperglyceridemia (272.1, E78.1), and mixed hyperlipidemia (272.2, E78.2). But where ICD-9 offers one code for “other and unspecified hyperlipidemia” (272.4), ICD-10 offers one code for “other” (E78.4) and a different code for “unspecified” (E78.5).

Documentation: Your clinicians’ documentation shouldn’t need to change from its current form. All you need to do as a coder to capture this already present information is to format your superbill to capture the difference between “other” and “unspecified” hyperlipidemia. “Other” means the physician documented the type, but ICD-10 doesn’t offer a code specific to the documented type. “Unspecified” means the physician did not document the type of hyperlipidemia.

Bonus tip: The notes with the ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes for lipid metabolism disorders are very similar, but there are a few differences. For example, while 272.1 includes “hypertriglyceridemia, essential,” E78.1 includes “elevated fasting triglycerides.”

Under E78.2, ICD-10 adds “combined hyperlipidemia NOS,” “elevated cholesterol with elevated triglycerides NEC,” and “Hyperlipidemia, group C.” Code E78.2 also has an Excludes1 note, telling you instead to code E78.4 for “familial combined hyperlipidemia” and E78.5 for “cerebrotendinous cholesterosis [van Bogaert-Scherer- Epstein] (E75.5).”

Remember: When ICD-10 goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, you should apply the code set and official guidelines in effect for the date of service reported. Learn more at and…

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ICD-10: A J Code To Replace 471.0 In 2013

Nasal cavity polyp also goes by the term “choanal” and “nasopharyngeal.”
If the otolaryngologist performed a removal of a middle turbinate endoscopically, you would report it with CPT 31240 — subsequently linking this procedure to a diagnosis…

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93224-93226: Snag Extra Cash With These Tips

The catch is you have to make the request for your rightful dollars.

Here’s a piece of good news for you. As per the Medicare’s April update, three Holter monitor codes will get a slight boost in pay.

The change has an implementation date of April 4, 2011, and an effective date of Jan. 1, 2011. That means contractors have to be ready to comply with the change by April 4, but the change in practice expense relative value units (PE RVUs) is retroactive to Jan. 1 dates of service.

Medicare isn’t requiring contractors to search their files to adjust claims they have already paid (which is good news for any physician who reports a code seeing a fee decrease). But contractors do have to adjust claims if you bring them to their attention. Take a look at how many 93224-93227 services you provided from January to March to see if making the claim for the small increase in RVUs is worth your time.

93224: The PE RVUs for 93224 (External electrocardiographic recording up to 48 hours by continuous rhythm recording and storage; includes recording, scanning analysis with report, physician review and interpretation) will change from 2.30 to 2.53. That’s a difference of .23 RVUs. Multiply that by the 2011 conversion factor (33.9764), and you can expect roughly an additional $7.81 for this code. (Remember that geographic region will affect your fee, as well).

93225: For 93225 (…recording [includes connection, recording, and disconnection]), the PE RVUs only increase by .09, changing from 0.82 to 0.91. So the additional reimbursement should be roughly $3.06.

93226: You may see an additional $4.76 for 93226 (… scanning analysis with report). Its PE RVUs change from 1.21 to 1.35.

Swan-Ganz: If you ever report 93503 (Insertion and placement of flow directed catheter [e.g.,

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Be In The Know With Chemodenervation and Botulinum Toxin Changes

Effective April 1, your practice’s bottom line is going to be hit, especially if your provider uses chemodenervation to treat patients. Reason: Medicare Physician Fee Schedule is all set to introduce a bunch of changes. So here’s the big news.

Bilateral Indicator Shifts to ‘2’

Neurologists and pain management specialists sometimes use chemodenervation to help relieve symptoms of spasmodic torticollis (333.83), cerebral palsy (such as 343.x), or other conditions. The codes you rely on for these procedures include:

  • 64613 — Chemodenervation of muscle(s); neck muscle(s) (e.g., for spasmodic torticollis, spasmodic dysphonia)
  • 64614 — … extremity(s) and/or trunk muscle(s) (e.g., for dystonia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis).

Previous versions of the physician fee schedule listed a bilateral status indicator of “1” for 64613 and 64614. That meant you could append modifier 50 (Bilateral procedure) and receive additional payment if your provider injected botulinum toxin into bilateral anatomic sites, such as the right and left upper extremities.

Medicare is changing the bilateral status indicator for 64613 and 64614 to “2,” effective April 1, 2011. You’ll no longer be able to report the service bilaterally, even if your provider chooses that treatment option.

“Medicare now considers that the RVUs (relative value units) are already based on the procedure being performed as a bilateral procedure,” explains Marvel Hammer, RN, CPC, CCS-P, PCS, ASC-PM, CHCO, owner of MJH Consulting in Denver, Co.

Pay cut: Submitting a claim with modifier 50 means the payer will reimburse at 100 percent for the first procedure and at 50 percent for the second contralateral procedure. Based on the national conversion factor of $33.9764, Medicare pays $145.42 for code 64613 in a facility setting and $164.11 in a non-facility setting. Medicare pays $151.87 for code 64614 in a facility setting and $174.98 in a nonfacility setting. Once the…

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One Medicare Contractor OK’s RNs and LPNs to Furnish Annual Wellness Visit

CMS staffers confirmed this week that MACs can determine whether they’ll allow licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) to perform annual wellness visits (AWVs) and collect from Medicare for those services. That’s the word from a Feb. 22 CMS Open Door Forum, where providers called in with several questions affecting Part B providers.

One caller phoned into the forum to ask about a Q&A posted on the Web site of WPS Medicare, a Part B payer in four states, which asks whether an RN or LPN can perform “the entire annual wellness visit (AWV, G0438-G0439).” WPS responds on the site, “Yes, an RN or LPN can perform the visit. They need to be under the direct supervision of a physician and the state license needs to allow for them to do all the ocmpoennts of the service.” ( The caller asked whether this is a general CMS policy or if it only applies to WPS Medicare.

“Remember, the LPN’s not billing,” said CMS’s William Rogers, MD, reminding the caller that the visit would be billed under the physician’s NPI as “incident to.” But the caller still considered it “odd” that an LPN could perform an AWV, since it’s similar to an E/M service.

“It’s a different sort of service – there’s not really any clinical judgment involved,” Rogers said. “It’s a service which includes a lot of sort of administrative steps, verifying that people have certain preventive services done and things like that, and so it is intended to be a collaborative service.”

Keep in mind that CMS does not have a national policy allowing LPNs and RNs to perform AWVs, but reps from the agency confirmed that it’s within the rights of the individual MACs to make this determination.

For more on this story,…

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Per New CMS Transmittal Modifier, All Claims With Modifier GZ Will Be Denied Immediately

As per the latest CMS regulation, all claims with modifier GZ appended will be denied straight away. It is not unusual even in the best-run medical practices that the physician performs a noncovered service and doesn’t get an ABN signed.
If you shoul…

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Look Up New Observation Codes When Reporting ‘Middle Days’

2011 brings a new coding option when reporting the middle day of observations that last longer than two days. Check out this expert advice on how CPT additions will affect your FP’s observation care services coding starting on Jan. 1, 2011.

Until this point, coding for the “middle days” of an observation service caused problems. Although not the norm, there are times when a physician admits a patient to observation and she remains in that status for three or more days. CPT 2011 addresses these middle days between admission and discharge by introducing three new E/M codes. The additions parallel the hospital subsequent care series in terms of component requirements and time frames:

  • 99224 – Subsequent observation care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: Problem focused interval history; Problem focused examination; Medical decision making that is straightforward or of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other providers or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient’s and/or family’s needs. Usually, the patient is stable, recovering, or improving. Physicians typically spend 15 minutes at the bedside and on the patient’s hospital floor or unit.
  • 99225 — … an expanded problem focused interval history; an expanded problem focused examination; Medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/ or coordination of care with other providers or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient’s and/or family’s needs. Usually, the patient is responding inadequately to therapy or has developed a minor complication. Physicians typically spend 25 minutes at the bedside and on the patient’s hospital floor or unit.
  • 99226 — … a detailed interval history; a detailed examination; Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or

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