Answers to Your Questions


Fam Pract Manag. 2004 Jun;11(6):24.

Office visit & nebulizer treatment


What codes should I submit if, during a problem-oriented office visit, I decide the patient requires a nebulizer treatment and the nurse gives the patient instructions on using a nebulizer or metered dose inhaler at home?


You should submit the appropriate evaluation and management (E/M) office visit code, the code for the nebulizer treatment (94640, “Pressurized or nonpressurized inhalation treatment for acute airway obstruction or for sputum induction for diagnostic purposes (e.g., with an aerosol generator, nebulizer, metered dose inhaler or intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB) device)”), the code for the nurse’s instructions (94664, “Demonstration and/or evaluation of patient utilization of an aerosol generator, nebulizer, metered dose inhaler or IPPB device”) and the correct J code for the supply of the nebulizer drug. You should also add modifier -25 to the E/M code to indicate that it was a significant, separately identifiable service from the other services described.

Admissions on separate dates


In our small town, the admitting physician often also sees the patient in the ED. If a patient is seen in the ED at 11 p.m. and is not seen as an inpatient until after midnight, should the physician submit two separate E/M codes since the services were provided on different dates?


Yes. CPT states that “all [E/M] services provided by that physician in conjunction with that admission are considered part of the initial hospital care when performed on the same date as the admission” (emphasis added). In the situation you describe, the ED visit and the initial hospital care occurred on different dates and should be billed separately, since the initial hospital care (“the first hospital inpatient encounter with the patient by the admitting physician”) did not occur until after midnight. The Medicare Carriers Manual provides similar advice.

Coding a discharge summary


In our group, one on-call physician covers call and hospital rounds for the weekend. This physician handles any hospital discharges, submitting the appropriate hospital discharge code (99238 or 99239). The attending physician dictates the discharge summary at a later date since the attending is more familiar with the entire hospitalization. Recently, however, we have been told that the on-call physician must dictate the discharge summary before he or she can submit 99238 or 99239. Is this true?


No. The hospital discharge process you describe is consistent with CPT as long as both physicians don’t submit the hospital discharge code for the same patient and the attending physician does not bill a separate E/M service for dictating the discharge summary. According to CPT, codes 99238 and 99239 include, as appropriate, final examination of the patient, discussion of the hospital stay, instructions for continuing care to all relevant caregivers and preparation of discharge records, prescriptions and referral forms. CPT also states that these codes are to be used by the physician to report all services provided to a patient on the date of discharge (if that date differs from the initial date of inpatient status). Your group has decided it is appropriate for the attending physician to dictate the discharge summary and for the on-call physician to code 99238 or 99239 for all of the services he or she provided on the date of discharge.

Medicare and many other payers often treat physicians of the same specialty in the same group practice as a single physician, so the fact that the work of 99238 or 99239 is split between the on-call and attending physician is not problematic.

Kent Moore is the AAFP’s manager for health care financing and delivery systems and is a contributing editor to Family Practice Management. These questions and answers were reviewed by members of the FPM Coding & Documentation Review Panel, which includes: Robert H. Bosl, MD, FAAFP; Marie Felger, CPC; Thomas A. Felger, MD, DABFP, CMCM; David Filipi, MD, MBA, and the Coding and Compliance Department of Physicians Clinic; Lynn Handy, CPC, LPN; Emily Hill, PA-C; Joy Newby, LPN, CPC; P. Lynn Sallings, CPC; and Susan Welsh, CPC.

Conflicts of interest: none reported.

Editor’s note: While this department attempts to provide accurate information and useful advice, third-party payers may not accept the coding and documentation recommended. You should refer to the current CPT and ICD-9 manuals and the Documentation Guidelines for Evaluation and Management Services for the most detailed and up-to-date information.



Send questions and comments to, or add your comments below. While this department attempts to provide accurate information, some payers may not accept the advice given. Refer to the current CPT and ICD-10 coding manuals and payer policies.


Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


May-Jun 2022

Access the latest issue
of FPM journal

Read the Issue

FPM E-Newsletter

Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights."

Sign Up Now



Measuring What Matters in Primary Care: Implementing the Person-Centered Primary Care Measure

Learn how family physicians are using the person-centered primary care measure and get tips for how to implement it in your practice.

Improving Adult Immunization Rates Within Racial and Ethnic Minority Communities

Part one of this two-part supplement series highlights QI processes to reduce vaccine disparities, identifies recommended adult vaccines, and discusses their importance among racial and ethnic minority communities.