Expert Commentary

What’s in store for ObGyn reimbursement in the EHR age and beyond

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ACOG intends to retain the physician lead in how ObGyns get paid for their work


In an effort to reduce burden on physicians and qualified health care professionals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ( CMS) has made changes to Evaluation and Management (E/M) documentation requirements and payment policies. Get ready for fairly extensive changes planned for CY 2021. Here we outline already-implemented and future changes and describe the commitment of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to ObGyn payment in its collaborations with CMS and the American Medical Association (AMA).

E/M services: CMS reduced documentation

Effective January 2019, the CMS made changes to the documentation requirements for E/M services to provide some common-sense relief for physicians facing excessive documentation requirements in their practices. Most physicians agree that modern medical practice, with the use of electronic health records (EHRs), is different now than in the mid-1990s, when the current E/M structures were developed and implemented. Streamlining documentation requirements reduces paperwork burden and some of the time-consuming duplicative work involved in medical practice today.

For instance, when relevant information is already contained in the medical record, it is not necessary to re-document a full medical history. Physicians will now be able to focus their documentation on the interval since the previous visit. Physicians should still review prior data, update as necessary, and indicate in the medical record that they have done so.

Also, for E/M office and outpatient visits for both new and established patients, physicians are no longer required to re-document information that has already been entered in the patient’s record by practice staff or by the patient. If the patient’s chief complaint and history already has been entered by ancillary staff or the beneficiary, the physician should simply indicate in the medical record that the information has been reviewed and verified.

For E/M visits furnished by teaching physicians, CMS has removed the requirement for potentially duplicative notations that may have been made previously in the medical records by residents or other members of the medical team.

Finally, CMS eliminated the requirement to document the medical necessity of a home visit in lieu of an office visit.

Continue to: Outpatient coding changes for 2021...


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