Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hospital Observation care CPT code 99234 - 99236

Documentation Requirements for Billing Hospital Observation care CPT code 99234 - 99236 Observation or Inpatient Care Services (Including Admission and Discharge Services (Codes 99234–99236))

The physician should satisfy the E/M documentation guidelines for furnishing observation care or inpatient hospital care. In addition to meeting the  documentation requirements for history, examination and medical decision-making, documentation in the medical record shall include:

* Documentation noting the stay for observation care or inpatient hospital care involves eight hours, but less than 24 hours.

* Documentation identifying the billing physician was present and personally performed the services.

* Documentation identifying the order for observation services, progress notes and discharge notes were written by the billing physician.

In the rare circumstance when a patient receives observation services for more than two calendar dates, the physician should bill a visit furnished before the discharge date using the outpatient/office visit codes. The physician may not use the subsequent hospital care codes since the patient is not an inpatient of the hospital.

Admission to Inpatient Status Following Observation Care


* If the same physician who ordered hospital outpatient observation services also admits the patient to inpatient status before the end of the date on which the patient began receiving hospital outpatient observation services, Medicare should pay only an initial hospital visit for the E/M services provided on that date.

* Medicare payment for the initial hospital visit includes all services provided to the patient on the  date of admission by that physician, regardless of the site of service.

* The physician may not bill an initial observation care code for services on the date he admits the patient to inpatient status.

* If the patient is admitted to inpatient status from hospital outpatient observation care subsequent to the date of initiation of observation services, the physician must bill an initial hospital visit for the services provided on that date.

The physician may not bill the hospital observation discharge management code (99217) or an outpatient/office visit for the care provided while the patient received hospital outpatient observation services on the date of admission to inpatient status.

Hospital Observation Services During Global Surgical Period

The global surgical fee includes payment for hospital observation (codes 99217, 99218, 99219,  99220, 99234, 99235 and 99236) services unless the criteria for use of modifiers 24, 25 or 57 are met.

These services are paid in addition to the global surgical fee only if both of the following  equirements are met:

* The hospital observation service meets the criteria needed to justify billing it with modifiers 24, 25 or 57 (decision for major surgery).

* The hospital observation service furnished by the surgeon meets all the criteria
for the hospital observation code billed.



Who May Bill Observation Care Codes

Observation care is a well-defined set of specific, clinically appropriate services, which include ongoing short term treatment, assessment, and reassessment, that are furnished while a decision is being made regarding whether patients will require further treatment as hospital inpatients or if they are able to be discharged from the hospital. Observation services are commonly ordered for patients who present to the emergency department and who then require a significant period of treatment or monitoring in order to make a decision concerning their admission or discharge. In only rare and exceptional cases do reasonable and necessary outpatient observation services span more than 48 hours. In the majority of cases, the decision whether to discharge a patient from the hospital following resolution of the reason for the observation care or to admit the patient as an inpatient can be made in less than 48 hours, usually in less than 24 hours.

Contractors pay for initial observation care billed by only the physician who ordered hospital outpatient observation services and was responsible for the patient during his/her observation care. A physician who does not have inpatient admitting privileges but who is authorized to furnish hospital outpatient observation services may bill these codes.

For a physician to bill observation care codes, there must be a medical observation record for the patient which contains dated and timed physician’s orders regarding the observation services the patient is to receive, nursing notes, and progress notes prepared by the physician while the patient received observation services. This record must be in addition to any record prepared as a result of an emergency department or outpatient clinic encounter.

Payment for an initial observation care code is for all the care rendered by the ordering physician on the date the patient’s observation services began. All other physicians who furnish consultations or additional evaluations or services while the patient is receiving hospital outpatient observation services must bill the appropriate outpatient service codes.

For example, if an internist orders observation services and asks another physician to additionally evaluate the patient, only the internist may bill the initial and subsequent observation care codes. The other physician who evaluates the patient must bill the new or established office or other outpatient visit codes as appropriate


Physician Billing for Observation Care Following Initiation of Observation Services Similar to initial observation codes, payment for a subsequent observation care code is for all the care rendered by the treating physician on the day(s) other than the initial or discharge date. All other physicians who furnish consultations or additional evaluations or services while the patient is receiving hospital outpatient observation services must bill the appropriate outpatient service codes.

When a patient receives observation care for less than 8 hours on the same calendar date, the Initial Observation Care, from CPT code range 99218 – 99220, shall be reported by the physician. The Observation Care Discharge Service, CPT code 99217, shall not be reported for this scenario.

When a patient is admitted for observation care and then is discharged on a different calendar date, the physician shall report Initial Observation Care, from CPT code range 99218 – 99220, and CPT observation care discharge CPT code 99217. On the rare occasion when a patient remains in observation care for 3 days, the physician shall report an initial observation care code (99218-99220) for the first day of observation care, a subsequent observation care code (99224-99226) for the second day of observation care, and an observation care discharge CPT code 99217 for the observation care on the discharge date. When observation care continues beyond 3 days, the physician shall report a subsequent observation care code (99224-99226) for each day between the first day of observation care and the discharge date.

When a patient receives observation care for a minimum of 8 hours, but less than 24 hours, and is discharged on the same calendar date, Observation or Inpatient Care Services (Including Admission and Discharge Services) from CPT code range 99234 – 99236 shall be reported. The observation discharge, CPT code 99217, cannot also be reported for this scenario 

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