New Year, New Codes: Medical Coding Changes For 2021

New Year, New Codes: Medical Coding Changes For 2021

Medical Coding ChangesWith a new year comes new medical coding changes.

After the examinations, x-rays, and surgeries, lives another major part of a physician’s day that happens behind the scenes. All the hard work needs to be processed through a successful claim submission, meaning that ultimately earning payment all boils down to one thing – coding. Evaluation and management codes, or E/M codes, are codes a physician uses to report a patient visit. This administrative task – a necessity for any physician – is often cumbersome and prone to errors. Most importantly, it uses up valuable time that could be better spent.

How many of us have experienced the “hurry up and wait” scenario? The type of appointment where you wait in a waiting room, then wait a little more in the exam room, then eventually get 10 minutes with your doctor…only to be rushed out so the next patient can be shuttled in. Unfortunately, it’s all too common. It’s safe to say that many patients could benefit from more face-to-face interaction with their providers.

Many people claim that payment for evaluation and management services is undervalued, specifically when it comes to ambulatory services. Additionally, it’s been argued that the fee schedule itself is not well-designed to support primary care, which requires ongoing care coordination for patients. Pressure existed to increase payment rates for ambulatory E/M services while reducing payment rates for other services. Thankfully, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) took notice. With the goal of increasing efficiencies to reduce unnecessary burdens, the “Patients over Paperwork” initiative was established. Per CMS, E/M codes make up 20% of total spending under the physician fee schedule. Part of this initiative aims to reduce the coding and documentation requirements for E/M codes, in turn giving physicians more time to spend with patients. In partnership with The American Medical Society (AMA), CMS worked to revise the rules for evaluation and management coding requirements. These changes were finalized in the 2020 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) with an effective date of January 1, 2021.

 

So what exactly was revised? The E/M updates affect codes 99201 through 99215 and include the deletion of code 99201 along with revisions to the code selection for 99202 – 99215. Below is a summary of the revisions to E/M codes:

  • Elimination of code 99201
  • Decrease the burden of coding requirements
  • Decreases the burden of documentation
  • Decreases the need for audits
  • Revises the definitions for Medical Decision Making (MDM)
  • Revises the definition of time spent with the patient to total time including non-face-to-face for E/M services by a physician and other QHP
  • Requires a history and/or examination when medically< necessary
  • Offers a clear time ranges for each code for time spent with the patient
  • Addition of a new 15-minute prolonged service code
  • Clinicians will choose a code based on MDM or total time

 

These changes apply to office visits and other outpatient services. It’s noteworthy that these changes represent the first changes to the E/M codes in over 25 years! More importantly, the changes streamline the coding process, reduce clinician burden, and will allow physicians to put the focus back on patient care.

Billing and coding should always be top of mind, but it can be hard to keep up. This is why it’s critical for physicians, clinicians, coders, and billers to completely understand these changes. To help comprehension, the AMA released a checklist identifying ten steps to help the practices prepare for the upcoming changes that can be accessed here. To learn more about the medical coding changes and the summary of revisions, visit the AMA website.

 

TriZetto Provider Solutions is a partner of EZClaim, and can assist you with all your coding needs. For more details about the EZClaim medical billing solution, visit their website, e-mail their support team, or call them at 877.650.0904.

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Note: This article is not a comprehensive overview and is NOT intended to provide coding advice, rather it is intended to highlight the new changes in effect and the need for physicians to ensure they have received the proper training for the upcoming changes. 

[ Contributed by TriZetto Provider Solutions Editorial Team ]

Life Cycle of a Medical Bill (Revenue Cycle 101)

Life Cycle of a Medical Bill (Revenue Cycle 101)

Life Cycle of a Medical BillThere are five ‘phases’ in the life cycle of a medical bill: Pre-appointment; Point of care; Claim submission; Insurance payment or denial; and Patient payment. This post will overview each of these phases, and could even be considered to be a “101-level” course on Revenue Cycle Management.

With high deductible health plans on the rise, the recent explosion of telehealth appointments due to COVID-19, and many other factors in play, it’s more important than ever for everyone to understand the life cycle of a medical bill, and how the process works. The healthcare revenue cycle is relevant not only to those who work in healthcare, but to the patient, too.

The revenue cycle is the series of processes around healthcare payments—from the time a patient makes an appointment to the time a provider is paid—and everything in between. One way to think of it is in terms of the life cycle of a medical bill. Although there are many ways this process can play out, this post will lay out a common example below:

1. Pre-appointment
For most general care, the first stage of the revenue cycle begins when a patient contacts a provider to set up their appointment. Generally this is when relevant patient information will begin to be collected for the eventual bill, referred to on the financial side of healthcare as a claim.

At this point a provider will determine whether the appointment and procedure will need prior authorization from an insurance company (referred to as the payer). Also, the electronic health record (EHR) used to help generate the claim is created, and will begin to accumulate further detail as the provider sends an eligibility inquiry to check into the patient’s insurance coverage.

2. Point of care
The next step in the process begins when the patient arrives for their appointment. This could include when a patient arrives for an initial consultation, an outpatient procedure, or for a follow-up exam. This could also include a Telehealth appointment.

At any of these events, the provider may charge an up-front cost. One example of this is a co-pay, which is the set amount patients pay after their deductible (if they are insured), however, there are other kinds of payments that fall into this category, too.

3. Claim submission
After the point of care, the provider completes and submits a claim with the appropriate codes to the payer. In order to accomplish that, billing staff must collect all necessary documentation and attach it to the claim. After submitting the claim to the payer, the provider’s team will monitor whether a claim has been been accepted, rejected, or denied.

[ Note: Medical coding refers to the clerical process of translating steps in the patient experience with reference numbers. The codes are normally based on medical documentation, such as a doctor’s notes or laboratory results. These explain to a payer how a patient was diagnosed and treated, and why. This information helps the payer decide how much of an encounter is covered under any given insurance plan, and therefore how much the payer will pay. ]

4. Insurance payment or denial
Once the payer receives the claim, they ensure it contains complete information and agrees with provider and patient records. If there is an error, the claim will be rejected outright and the provider will have to submit a corrected claim.

The payer then begins the review process, referred to as adjudication. Payers evaluate claims for accurate coding and documentation, medical necessity, appropriate authorization, and more. Through this process, the payer decides their financial obligation. Any factor could cause the payer to deny the claim.

If the claim is approved, the payer submits payment to the provider with information explaining details of their decision. If the claim is denied, the provider will need to determine if the original needs to be corrected, or if it makes more sense to appeal the payer’s decision.

Following adjudication, the payer will send an explanation of benefits (EOB) to the patient. This EOB will provide a breakdown of how the patient’s coverage matched up to the charges attached to their care. It is not a billing statement, but it does show what the provider charged the payer, what portion insurance covers, and how much the patient is responsible for.

5. Patient payment
The next phase occurs when the provider sends the patient a statement for their portion of financial responsibility. This stage occurs once the provider and payer have agreed on the details of the claim, what has been paid, and what is still owed.

The last step occurs when a patient pays the balance that they owe the provider for their care. Depending on the amount, the patient may be able pay it all at once, or they might need to work with the provider on a payment plan.

 

The above example represents one way the lie cycle of a medical bill can play out. Some of the ‘phases’ are often repeated. Because of the complexity of healthcare payments and the parties involved, there is not always a ‘straight line’ from patient care to complete payment. That’s why we call it the revenue cycle, and there are companies that provide systems for its management.

One of EZClaim’s partners, Waystar, aims to simplify and unify healthcare payments. Their technology automates many parts of the billing process laid out above, so it takes less time and energy for providers and their teams, and is more transparent for patients (Click here to learn more about how Waystar automates manual tasks and streamlines workflows.) When the revenue cycle is operating at its most efficient, providers can focus their resources on improving patient care—and that’s a better way forward for everyone!

For more information of how Waystar works together with EZClaim, click here.

[ Article and image provided by Waystar ]

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ABOUT EZCLAIM:
EZClaim is a medical billing and scheduling software company that provides a best-in-class product, with correspondingly exceptional service and support, and can help improve medical billing revenues. To learn more, visit their website, e-mail them at sales@ezclaim.com, or call a representative today at 877.650.0904.

How to Improve Medical Billing Revenues

Improving Medical Billing RevenuesIt IS POSSIBLE to improve medical billing revenues, and here are a few ways to do just that.

Healthcare practitioners, whether established or just starting out, have many overwhelming tasks: Managing a practice; Seeing patients; Working to staying up-to-date on administrative tasks; The whole host of compliance at the federal, state, and local level; and Overseeing the billing.

One of these that can lead to loss of revenue is not properly managing the medical billing, which can also lead to HIPAA fines and rejected claims. However, there is a solution: a medical billing system that balances the budget and optimizes revenues of medical practice.

EZClaim, an expert in the medical billing software market since 1997, provides a solution that improves the efficiency of an office’s billing process in many ways. The following are the primary reasons.

Reduce Coding Errors
Medical procedures become codes, codes become claims, and claims become revenue. Any error in this process can make claims to be denied, your workload can be increased, and revenue can be lost. To help in avoiding errors, it is essential to use billing software that offers the easiest implementation and access to descriptive diagnosis and treatment codes. EZClaim’s medical billing solution offers ease-of-use in coding, billing, and strong partnerships with Clearinghouses which act as an additional ‘safety net’ for catching errors.

Administrative Support
Most medical practices are a small team of people tackling a wide range of tasks, so when one cannot understand the function of the billing software, accessing reliable support is very important. EZClaim prides itself on having dedicated support experts available, and that was how the company was established. Founder and President Al Nagy has said, since day one, “We are a support company that happens to sell medical billing software.”

Maintain Industry Compliance
It is important to recognize that industry compliance and a practice’s revenue go hand-in-hand. Filing and batching inaccurate and non-HIPAA compliant claims can often be traced back to an outdated healthcare revenue management system. Conquering these tasks requires a focus on multiple fronts: A properly trained billing team, clear office procedures, patient payment policies, and a reliable medical billing company. These are all ways to help buttress against non-compliance and rejected claims.

Streamline Workflow
Recently, a study was done that showed almost 80% of medical bills contain errors. These incorrect medical claims often end up as lost revenue originally, not to mention the additional cost of resubmissions and collections. One of the best ways to resolve this problem for your practice is to make use of both well-trained, experienced billers and coders, combined with a competent medical billing solution that aids in catching these errors. EZClaim software features a library of standard validation, the ability to add custom validation, and integrates with Alpha II for full claim scrubbing.

Follow up
Errors will and do occur, so establishing a system for follow-up on all denials will close the loop and protect against lost revenue. Being consistent with the follow-up process, and having a medical billing solution that tracks these things will help close that gap.

Collections
Finally, probably the most important aspect that optimizes a practice’s revenue is to get paid. Portals and payment collection systems definitely help with this, but having collections integrated into the medical billing system is, of course, the best. EZClaim has pain-free payment processing integrated into their solution, called EZClaimPay. It solves all the problems associated with payment processing: Bank deposits, reconciliation, statements, changing fees, and ‘finger-pointing’ when there is a problem. EZClaimPay’s robust platform will greatly increase a practice’s collections success, and improve their revenue.

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ABOUT EZCLAIM:
EZClaim is a medical billing and scheduling software company that provides a best-in-class product, with correspondingly exceptional service and support, and can help improve medical billing revenues. To learn more, visit their website, e-mail them at sales@ezclaim.com, or call a representative today at 877.650.0904.

[ Photo credit: Studioarz ]

6 Telehealth Revenue Cycle Metrics to Track Right Now!

Revenue Cycle Metrics to TrackIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Telehealth adoption has exploded, and there are six revenue cycle metrics to track.

Many patients are prohibited or reluctant to venture out for on-site care. The combination of relaxed regulations and expanded payment parity for appointments has made virtual meetings easier and more attractive for providers, who are turning to these technologies to stay engaged with patients—and maintain cashflow. Dr. Robert McLean, a former president of the American College of Physicians, recently said, “this crisis has forced us to change how we deliver health care more in 20 days than we had in 20 years.”

A new industry report predicts that the number of Telehealth visits in the US will surpass one billion by the end of the year, and speculates that nearly half of those visits will be related to COVID-19. At Waystar, we have been closely monitoring claim trends and are seeing this growth firsthand. In fact, the volume of Telehealth claims on the Waystar platform has grown by more than 100 times since mid-March. On two particular days in late April, they accounted for more than 15% of our total daily claim volume. Before COVID-19, they would have accounted for less than one percent!

For many providers, this shift will require new revenue cycle strategies to meet growing patient demand without overwhelming clinicians and administrative teams—or already strained operating budgets. It’s important to remember this is still very much an evolving care delivery model with the opportunity for errors on the part of both payers, providers, and administrative staff. For this reason, revenue cycle professionals should diligently monitor claims to ensure proper adjudication, identify learning opportunities, and uncover areas for operational improvement.

Below, we’ve listed six core Telehealth-related metrics you should regularly track to ensure billing accuracy, maximize payer reimbursement and reduce claim rejections and denials. For more on how to best navigate the evolving telemedicine landscape, check out our resource hub here.

To report on Telehealth-related claims, you’ll first need to identify and isolate claims containing Telehealth procedure codes. See CMS’ Telehealth code list to identify the specific procedure codes and modifiers that apply to your organization.

Payer Analysis:
1. Payer Telehealth claim rejections by volume and/or billed amount
2. Payer Telehealth claim denials by volume and/or billed amount

If your Telehealth claims are being denied or rejected, do you know which specific payers are doing so at the highest rate? Drill down to discover the specific reason codes payers are attaching to rejections and denials so you can better understand payer-specific rules and avoid these oversights in the future. In some cases, you may identify trends that warrant a call to the payer to correct.

Provider Analysis:
3. Telehealth claim volume by provider

Review this claim volume by individual provider. If you notice providers within your organization generating a much lower volume of Telehealth claims than peers, perhaps they could benefit from additional training on Telehealth technology and use cases.

Ensuring Billing Accuracy:
4. Telehealth claim rejections by biller/team
5. Telehealth claim denials by biller/team

Are certain billing personnel or teams producing higher denial or rejection rates than others? Keep a close eye on these trends and remember most of this is new for everyone. If some team members are seeing more rejections or denials than they should, it could be a great opportunity to hold trainings and collaborate on strategies for success.

Maximizing Reimbursement:
6. Telehealth claim volume by procedure code

Which Telehealth codes are you using? Each code reimburses at a different rate, so choosing the wrong ones could leave money on the table. Be sure to read up on CMS’  requirements (check out their fact sheet and code list) to ensure you’re choosing the appropriate code(s) on each Telehealth claim.

 

Waystar Analytics
You have all the data you need to drive informed decision making and improve financial performance—you just need the right analytics tool in your corner. Our new Waystar Analytics solution offers a pre-built Telehealth dashboard that can help you easily interpret, share all the metrics above, and track these revenue cycle metrics. Click here to learn more about Waystar Analytics and how it can deliver the insights you need during this time of transition.

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[ By Waystar ]