The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information July 30 about counseling patients who are being tested for COVID-19, regardless of where the test was administered. It is important to discuss with the patient the immediate need for isolation while test results are pending or after a positive result, the importance of informing the members of the patient’s household that they should also be tested for COVID-19, the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the services available to patients when isolating at home, and the contact tracing process the local health department may initiate if the patient tests positive. Counseling patients about the importance of isolating, in particular, can help reduce transmission of the illness.
Physicians can use existing evaluation and management codes to receive payment for counseling, no matter where the test is administered. Whether the patient is tested in a physician’s office, urgent care clinic, hospital, community drive-through, or pharmacy testing site, current coding and payment policies still apply. In 2020, physicians can select the level of service when more than 50% of face-to-face time is spent counseling or coordinating care. Counseling services may be provided in-person or via telehealth. For telemedicine visits, physicians should select the appropriate level of E/M service based on the total time the physician personally spends furnishing the service on the date of visit. Code selection based on total time currently only applies to telemedicine visits.
Several counseling resources are available, including:
Additional information is available in the Medicare Learning Network Special Edition Article: Medicare Fee-for-Service Response to the Public Health Emergency on the Coronavirus.
— Erin Solis, Manager of Practice and Payment at the American Academy of Family Physicians
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