Home Health Denials


During January to March of this year, the top reasons for denial for Home Health Palmetto GBA claims were published on their website as listed below. They can be confusing in their meaning and so we have attempted to clarify as we understand them.  Without further ado:

56900—Medical Records not received
This has been the number one reason for denials for years. This occurs most often when an ADR is not seen in the system.  Alternatively, it is noticed too late to get records together and sent. To avoid this denial:

CGS encourages providers to use the Fiscal Intermediary Standard System (FISS) to check for MR ADRs at least once per week. To check for MR ADRs,
in the FISS system:

  1. Use Option 12
  2. Enter your NPI number and status/location of ‘S B60001’
  3. ADRs will appear as reason code 39700
  4. The ADR date is in the upper left corner.  45 days from the date of the ADR
    date the claim will auto cancel.

In addition to the above, we suggest:

  1. Uploading the documents when you are able.
  2. Mail the documents with proof of delivery requested.
  3. Track delivery.
  4. Retain copies of everything including the completed ADR.  If you sent by overnight mail five days before the due date and the records are not there two days later, you will have the opportunity to resend.
  5. Use the address and mail code on the ADR.  This is on the last page of the printed document and may differ from the return address on the first page.
  6. Print the ADR from the computer and include a copy with Your submitted documentation.

5FF2F Face to Face Requirements not Met

This should be easy by now but it’s still confusing. Our favorite cheat sheet is the PDF on CGS’s website. Additionally, we see denials that can be prevented by being mindful of the following:

  1. Regardless of the episode within the sequence of multiple episodes, the Face-to-Face document must be included even if it occurred six or more months ago.
  2.  The physician clinic visit or hospital documentation will be used to establish eligibility.
  3. If the information sent by the doctor does not clearly indicate that the patient is confined to the home or the need for skilled services, the agency can supplement the information.  Here’s how.  Send you Admission OASIS to the physician with a request to sign and date it, make a copy, file one in his records and return the copy to you.
  4. Teach everyone in the agency how to evaluate Face-to-Face documents.  You should never come into contact with one without reviewing it.

5F023 No Plan of Care

It is a rare event that an agency omits the plan of care from an ADR.  When an ADR is denied for not having the plan of care, agencies often assume that the mistake is on the part of the reviewer. Look again.  Often this means:

  1. The plan of care was not signed.
  2. The plan of care was signed by a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant
  3. A different physician than the one listed on the plan of care signed it.
  4. The signature was not dated although there is a seperate code for this.
  5. The date of the signature was after the date of billing.

5CHG3 Partial Denial of Therapy

A reviewer will often deny visits based upon an arbitrary number of feet that a patient can walk or problems with individual notes. Because therapy adds significantly to the dollar amount of a claim, these services are an opportunity for Medicare contractors to save a few Medicare dollars at your expense. To avoid these denials:

  1. Document not only how far the patient ambulated but how they tolerated the ambulation.
  2. Take pre and post vital signs.  Document balance and gait disturbances.
  3. Always document pain and discomfort in quantitative measures.
  4. Document any complaints or new orders not related to therapy and report them to the case manager.  Follow up in writing.
  5. Most importantly, request a case conference and schedule discharge when the patient no longer needs therapy.

5FNOA – Appropriate OASIS not submitted

This code means that the OASIS was not found in the repository when the claim was billed.  Palmetto GBA explains this denial code as follows:

Under the HHPPS, an OASIS is a regulatory requirement. If the home health agency does not submit the OASIS, the medical reviewer cannot determine the medical necessity of the level of care billed and no Medicare payment can be made for those services.

Since this list was generated from 2018 claims, it is unlikely that agencies would receive this denial code in response to an ADR because they are auto-rejected upon dropping the claim.  Yet, this reason for denial is ranked fifth.  If you have received a denial for reason code 5FNOA in response to records submitted in response to an ADR, please let us know.

5T072 – No physician Orders for Services

This denial refers to services provided in excess of what the MD ordered, or services provided before an order was obtained.  This is frequently seen when a physician orders PT to evaluate the patient but there are no subsequent orders. It may also be related to the date next to the nurse’s signature on the plan of care.  Nurses new to reviewing and signing plans of care will often date their signature with the date that the document was signed instead of the verbal SOC date.

To prevent this denial:

  1. If possible (and it should be possible), include therapy frequency on the plan of care.
  2. Consider amending your standard therapy contract to state that the agency will not pay for unauthorized visits.
  3. If the therapist includes the frequency and goals on the evaluation and that is signed by the MD, make a second copy to include with orders when an ADR is received.
  4. Educate and spot check the POCs of new case managers.  If a plan of care is not complete by the first day of the episode and the nurse contemporaneously dates his signature, all days prior to the date indicated are not billable as there are no signed orders.
  5. The same signature and dating rules apply to MD signatures on interim orders.
  6. The correct way to write an order that was received earlier is:
    1. Date the document on the day it was written
    2. Begin the order with, ‘Effective on (the date you received the order)
    3. Date your signature when you signed the document.

5F041-Information does not support medical necessity

This denial is listed twice with the same code.  It is also the easiest one to avoid when clinicians understand and appreciate the importance of their documentation. To avoid this denial:

  1. Read and distribute chapter 7 of the Medicare Beneficiary Coverage Manual.  Review specific topics at case conference.
  2. As much as possible document in the home.  Some patients complain that the nurse spends too much time focusing on the computer.  To prevent that, as you are finishing up, ask the patient if you can sit and document before you leave.  That way, you are not taking your attention away from the patient and if you forgot anything, you are still in the home.
  3. Display some clinical notes that are truly impressive as examples.
  4. Turn off the ability to cut and paste if duplicate notes by a nurse are found.
  5. Read The Z-Factor on the Haydel Consulting Services blog.
  6. If your job is to review notes, focus on what is important. Medicare does not pay for spelling and grammar and there is little virtue in embarrassing your nurses.  Focus on the contents of chapter 7.

Remember that the best reason to document is to communicate the condition of the patient to other clinicians.  You don’t have the luxury of shift change report.

5T070 – Visits/Supplies/DME Billed Not Documented/Not Documented As Used

Although this code includes visits, supplies and DME, Palmetto GBA’s explanation of this denial appears to be limited to visits.

The services(s) billed (was/were) not documented in the medical records submitted in response to the Additional Development Request (ADR). As a result, medical necessity for these services could not be determined.

It looks very similar to a denial for medical necessity.  Palmetto GBA advises:

To avoid unnecessary denials for this reason, the provider should ensure that adequate documentation is submitted to substantiate the medical necessity for all the services billed when responding to an ADR. The provider may submit discipline visit notes and/or a summary of the services rendered for the billing period. If a summary is submitted, it should include the following: (1) the information for the dates of service billed, (2) documentation of the services that “were rendered” by each discipline billed, (3) documentation of the patient’s condition, and (4) documentation of the patient’s progress/response to the treatments/services rendered.

This information appears to be outdated as visit notes are specified in the list of documentation required for ADRs. Our advice is to:

  1. Ensure that the recert and therapy evaluation are included if they were performed prior to the starting date of the episode.
  2. Include lab and other diagnostic tests that substantiate a diagnosis even if is not included in the episode.

5A301 Info Provided Does Not Support the M/N for Therapy Services

The same information that applied to the partial denial for therapy services also applies here so we won’t be redundant and repeat it here.

We hope you don’t need help with appealing denials but we are here for you if you do and to answer any questions about denials you might have received.  We would also appreciate any input if you have anything to add, especially about the denial for OASIS and the denial for Visits/Supplies/DME Billed Not Documented/Not Documented As Used.  Email us at TheCoders@hhcoding.com.

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Here We Go Again


A notification of the intent to re-implement the Pre-Claim Review process is being published today in the Federal Register.  The purpose, as stated in the notice, is to develop and improve methods to investigate and prosecute fraud in the home healthcare services.  In other words, Medicare wants you to send them evidence before you are even suspected of a crime. At its onset, agencies in Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and Texas with the option to expand.

If there was even a chance that this burdensome, intrusive and expensive process would serve its stated process, my objections might not be so strong (but maybe they would).  Assuming that this process involves collecting the same information as the 2016/2017 demonstration, it is not likely identify or help in the prosecution of fraud. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, agencies had to gather and submit eligibility information for patients and submit it prior to billing the final claim.  (Palmetto GBA’s Guide to PCR submission) What’s even more amazing is that the United States Congress agrees with me.   

Here’s what they wrote in the Final Rule for the 2015 PPS update:

Each year, the CMS’ Office of Financial Management (OFM), under the Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) program, calculates the Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) improper payment rate. For the FY 2013 report period (reflecting claims processed between July 2011 and June 2012), the national Medicare FFS improper payment rate was calculated to be 10.1 percent.  For that same report period, the improper payment rate for home health services was 17.3 percent, representing a projected improper payment amount of approximately $3 billion.  The improper payments identified by the CERT program represent instances in which a health care provider fails to comply with the Medicare coverage and billing requirements and are not necessarily a result of fraudulent activity.

Worse than being ineffective, the proposed PCR project does not state goals of prevention of fraud, improvement of patient outcomes, or identification of opportunities for innovative approaches to home healthcare.   The process focuses on Face-to-Face information, documentation of homebound status, signatures and dates, and care plans. Nothing written here is meant to dismiss the importance of these statutory requirements but agencies who are fraudulently bent are coached by the CMS in how to get paid whether or not visits are being made or if the ordered care is given. Numerous checklists and examples could serve as a Fraud 101 primer.    It befuddles me that an undated signature may result in a denial or delay in payment but Medicare doesn’t understand that a fraudulent agency may document homebound status perfectly even when the details are contrary to reality.

But you do have a choice.  You can opt out of the PCR process.  It’s a condescending choice like when a toddler is told he can eat his vegetables or be sent to bed early with no dessert. Most kids will hold their nose and get the Broccoli down.  

Similarly, Medicare is giving agencies a choice to participate in PCR or suffer a 25 percent reduction in payment IF they are paid after a mandatory request for additional records (ADR).  So agencies will hold their nose and participate in PCR.

Agencies can also opt for a post payment review. In this scenario, you would submit information after being paid which means any errors found occurred prior to billing.  Undated signature? Denied. Then you will have an overpayment which will be recouped. There are few things worse than having money you already earned taken back. But agencies have a choice.

Agencies will be removed from PCR after they reach an unannounced target goal. If the purpose of PCR is accurately stated, how could the goal be less than 100 percent?  If a 90 percent target is set, that means that 10 percent of claims meet the categories of fraud, abuse or waste.  

What has never happened to the best of my knowledge is anyone being notified by the person reviewing a patient in the pre-claim review process of errors that might cost Medicare money. Just once I would like to see advice to an agency to include therapy because even though it was received in a prior admission, it’s worth another shot because the patient is having pain difficult to manage without opiates increasing the risk of falls and subsequent injury.  

Luckily, you don’t have to sit back and wait for the curtain to fall.  You have been invited to comment on the PCR process. Before you do, take a look at the document which was to have been included in today’s Federal Register.  As of now, it does not appear to be there.

Note that there are multiple ways to submit your comments.  Use them all. Tell your co-workers, bosses, employees and mother to read the memo and draw their own conclusions.  There is an ethical dilemma if you tell them how to feel about a political matter but providing a stamp won’t draw the attention of anyone.

Also note the title of the gentleman who signed the memo; Director, Paperwork Reduction Staff.  I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

The Coders will prepare comments for submission and share them with you. Please feel free to share your comments for or against the reimplementation of the Pre-Claims Review Demonstration.  And remember, you have options.

 

Three Little Questions


Because the OASIS C database has become easier for you, Medicare has taken measures to ensure that 2017 offers some challenges in the way of OASIS C2.  In turn, we have taken measure to ensure that you understand at the very minimum the three new questions.  They come complete with their own conundrums, confusion and lots of reformatting and subtle shifts in definition.  It’s not as simple as it seems but it certainly isn’t out of your range of capabilities.

New Questions

Written by someone who is comforted by redundancy, MO1028 assesses (again) whether a patient has diabetes or peripheral vascular disease.

(M1028) Active Diagnoses– Comorbidities and Co-existing Conditions—Check all that apply

See the OASIS Guidance Manual or click here for a list of relevant ICD-10 codes.

  • Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) or Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
  • Diabetes Mellitus (DM)

Additional guidance is not much different from coding conventions.  The diagnoses must be documented in the medical records produced by the physician or NP.

Having the condition is not enough to win a checked box.  The C2 manual states that the diagnosis must be active and the manual infers that ‘active’ means that there are orders written or monitoring of the disease process ongoing.

So, that’s two criteria –

  1. Does the patient have the condition and
  2. Is anyone watching it or writing orders for it.

Worth noting, if only for a laugh, the OASIS Guidance manual for the C2 dataset provides the following rationale for this question.  We are not kidding.

Disease processes can have a significant adverse effect on an individual’s health status and quality of life.

Section GG

Another new question is (GG0170C) Mobility.  The question occupies an entire page in the manual and if you are like me, it may take you a while to understand what they are truly asking.  Look the column in the body of the table to the very most right where it says something about the patient moving from a completely supine position to sitting on the side of the bed, feet flat on the floor with no backrest.   Everything else on the page refers to that single activity.

The answer reflecting the greatest impairment is 01 and a patient who can complete the tasks independently gets a 06 score.  Note that this is a new opportunity to make a careless error as the level of severity for every other question is reversed with 00 being the least impaired and the last possible response being the worst level of severity.

But there’s more.  The dataset asks for a goal.  If your patient is able to do this task at admission, it is not a problem.  Your initial response and your goal will be the same.  However, if some improvement is expected by the grace of your carefully crafted careplan, there will be a second response describing your patient’s expected ability upon discharge.  Take your best shot and don’t fret about not being able to predict the future.  It is true that all kinds of things can happen between admit/resumption of care and discharge but it is not reasonable to downgrade your goal in the event of a zombie attack.  On the other hand, remember that you are not so good that you can take a person who is totally dependent following a cerebral vascular accident and have them independent at discharge.

Getting Personal

Medicare wants to know the patient’s height and weight in M1060.

(M1060) Height and Weight—While measuring, if the number is X.1 – X.4 round down; X.5 or greater round up.

The Coders assume that you know how to round off numbers but Medicare does not and includes explicit instructions within the question.

Guidance for this question includes a helpful tip to measure your patient’s height and weight in accordance with the agency’s policies and procedures, which should reflect current standards of practice.  So, how many of you have a policy addressing how to measure the height and weight of a patient?

Assuming that such a policy exists in your agency, is it based upon sound clinical practice standards?  On your behalf, we have scoured the internet for practice standards for measuring height and weight and like the CDC Antropometry Procedures Manual.  Sadly, the manual refers to the Integrated Survey Information System anthropometry computer application (ISIS).   Do not be alarmed when you see this.

Also, when determining how height will be measured, plan on buying a stadiometer.  This is the apparatus seen in Physician offices that measures height.  Most of the affordable ones are wall mounted and we suggest that wall mounting is not recommended in your patient’s home environment.  Also, note that anything with brightly colored giraffes and ruler-like markings cheering on big boys and girls is not likely to be received well by adult patients or meet the practice standards. Call your medical supply company and plan to spend about $150.00 per portable stadiometer.

The Dash

There’s more – so much more but you have patients to see and notes to write.  We are going to leave you with information about The Dash.  This is not a simple dash as found in other places like a date or a social security number.  According to Medicare,

a dash (–) value indicates that no information is available, and/or an item could not be assessed. This most often occurs when the patient is unexpectedly transferred, discharged or dies before assessment of the item could be completed. CMS expects dash use to be a rare occurrence.

This definition is consistent throughout the manual.  When a dash value is an available option for questions, OASIS guidance generally indicates if the dash is a valid response.

For your convenience, we have uploaded some of these documents.  Hopefully, you will read them and then fill us in.  As always, we welcome your questions.  Maybe we’ll even answer a couple.

THE Hospice Quiz


If you own or work at a hospice, there has never been a better time to make sure that you understand the rules and regulations just like Medicare intended.  The quiz below is a very basic quiz designed for you and your staff or co-workers to take to ensure that you are not denied payment or worse,  step on a regulatory landmine.

10 Common Documentation Flaws


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Stop and use caution before documenting your visit!

 

If you are not concerned about poor to mediocre patient care, getting paid or your license, read no further.  If any or all of these issues are of concern to you, keep reading.  Below are ten of the most frequent flaws in nursing documentation reviewed by the coders.  We know that these oversights and omissions are most often the result of a busy schedule or inattention to documentation because we know our clients.  State surveyors, Medicare contractors and agencies named with 3 letters and an Eagle (OIG, FBI, DHS, CMS, etc.) do not express any great interest in the underlying causes of poor documentation.

1.  No MD Contact Documented when appropriate

Many times, the MD is not called at the house due to time constraints or other issues.  When orders are received, they do not tie back to any communication in the chart.  Documentation of two way communication is critical to both sound clinical practice and payment.

2.  Contradictory Information

The 486 summary indicates that the patient lives with a daughter but the OASIS states the patient lives alone.  The OASIS data states that the patient becomes short of breath with minimal activity but the plan of care does not include shortness of breath in the functional limitation.

3.  Blind Adherence to Rules of Thumb

Somewhere along the way, nurses were told that they must always document on the primary diagnosis on every visit and follow the clinical pathway written by someone who has never visited the patient.  This has led to visit notes that read like, “Pt found on floor with scalp wound bleeding profusely.  Reports she fell yesterday and wasn’t wearing life alert button.  Taught to avoid soda and other concentrated sweets to manage blood sugar.”

4. Failure to Document Sensitive Information

A chart found in one the best agencies I know of had multiple notes reading that the patient complained of extreme pain.  The physician was notified after every visit with a fax and a copy of the med list.  No new orders were received.  The Director of Nursing explained that the patient had recently been the subject of an evening news story involving the sale of her pain meds to supplement her Social Security check. 

5. Missing the Little Stuff

When little things like vital signs, weights, and blood sugars are omitted from the clinical record, it causes problems.  A weight gain of ten pounds after two weeks of forgetting to weigh the patient is negligent but not as bad as forgetting the third week when the patient is hospitalized.  Most nurses take vital signs.  I spend many nights staring at the ceiling wondering why they aren’t on the chart.  Then I remember that I tend to write them on my arms and if I bathe before I chart, they are lost to the water supply.  What’s your reason?

6.  Missing the Big Stuff

Missing new orders, teaching on medications that have been discontinued and not notifying the MD for problems is more common than you think.  It is what feeds many malpractice attorneys.  It is why state surveyors might not trust anything you say during survey.  It is why nurses find themselves answering very difficult questions to the state board of nursing.  If you do not have a current care plan, refuse to see the patient until you have a verbal report.  Document the verbal report.  If you see a patient without looking at prior orders, shame on you.  If the prior orders taken by another nurse are not written and as a result you teach a patient to take a med that has been discontinued, write an incident report.  This is stuff that kills patients.

7.  Lack of Follow-Up

Lack of follow leaves gaping holes in the chart, and often, results in missed opportunities to provide better care to patients.  Consider a clinical record where you read one week that the patient has a doctor’s appointment the following day and that’s the last time it is mentioned.  Did anyone call to see if there was lab or new meds ordered?  It’s hard to believe but sometimes patients don’t tell you these things. 

8.  No Ongoing Medication Reviews

One of the easiest way to prevent re-hospitalizations, adverse reactions, and non-compliance with medication is to simply review all medications against the med list on each and every visit.  Every time a med is missing, a new med appears, or there seems to be confusion in dosing, there lies an opportunity to improve the care of a patient and to increase your level of skill ensuring payment. 

9.  Taking the patient’s word at face value

If a patient tells you they had a lab or diagnostic test and the results were fine, by all means document it.  Also call the physician who ordered the test and get the scoop.  The physician may have told the patient it was ‘fine’ or ‘no change since the last MRI’ but in the context of the specific patient, that same test could show degenerative disease, a low hematocrit or some other information important to support eligibility for your patient.  If possible, always get copies of the final reports for lab and diagnostic tests.

10.  Evidence of Ignorance

This sounds harsh but it is evident en masse in the clinical records reviewed by The Coders.  A new medication will be ordered specific to a disease that is not documented anywhere.  Eye drops for glaucoma, Zemplar for hyperparathyroidism secondary to renal disease, Invokana for Type II diabetes are all medications seen within the last week that have no corresponding diagnosis.  These meds both have serious side effects and teaching to ‘take medications as ordered’ will not help the patient avoid untoward adverse reactions or recognize side effects. 

All of these shortfalls in clinical documentation can be avoided by simply reviewing the charts.  The average time for a skilled nursing visit is 30 minutes and the average payment is equal or more to what nurses would make in the hospital.  This means that nurses have the time to review the clinical records, go to case conference meetings and call physicians.  If a nurse has ten fingers and a keyboard or two thumbs and a smart phone, enough information regarding medications is available around the clock.  Medscape has a great completely free app for mobile phones that has data that can be stored on your phone when you are away from Internet connectivity.

We all want to get paid.  If agencies don’t get paid, they have no money to pay consultants and coders and that reason to document well falls second only to improving patient care.

Weights


The Oxford English Dictionary defines weight as a body’s relative mass or the quantity of matter contained by it, giving rise to a downward force; the heaviness of a person or thing.

What the OED fails to mention is that weights are a critical measurement of overall health.  Symptoms of many diseases cause a person to shed weight.  Other diseases cause people to add body mass or weight.  It is a good thing to know what your patient weighs but more important to know how their weight changes over time.

Nobody gets concerned about weight loss of a pound or two.  Some of us are even thrilled when we notice the needle on the scale drift downwards a bit.  What we occasionally see when I look at episodes in their entirety is significant weight loss over the period of 60 days that is unexplained by diet or increased activity.  Nurses in the field sometimes fail to realize that the pound or two here and there over several weeks could point to an unresolved health issue.

It seems almost pointless to tell nurses to weigh their patients with congestive heart failure and yet over the week, we have reviewed numerous charts from different agencies where no weights were recorded.  This lack of attention to a basic measurement of congestive heart failure can and does lead to unnecessary hospitalizations. 

Sometimes, it seems that orders are written to prevent that burdensome task of notifying a physician of a decline in a patient’s condition.  A frail elderly woman weighing 103 pounds should not have to gain five pounds before the physician is called for orders.

What you may not know is how much this is costing you in terms of denials.  If you are a manager or administrator responsible for ensuring compliance to Medicare coverage rules, pay close attention.  

Observation and assessment is only a skill for three weeks unless there are credible findings that a patient is at risk for exacerbation.  For our purposes, an exacerbation is a worsening of a condition that involves changing the care plan.  In order to change the plan of care, the physician must be involved and new orders received.  Not every order must be for medications so be prepared to ask the physician if he needs lab or if you can make an extra skilled visit to check on the patient.

Each order you receive is like a ticket to ride the episode train a little longer.  Skills are provided and they are reasonable and necessary because there is documented information upon which decisions regarding care are made.

Without a documented information, the same skills may very well be provided without meeting the reasonable and necessary criteria.  Or, the weight gain may not be noticed especially if a different nurse sees a patient. 

None of this is anything that can’t be handled but the first step is to take it seriously.  The easiest way to do this is to begin weighing all patients.  Reserve written orders only for those patients with diagnoses or conditions that require weights to prevent unnecessary tags on survey in the event one is overlooked.  Habits are powerful things.  You will know the habit is real when you just don’t feel comfortable until a weight is documented.

Every patient should have a scale in their home.  No home health agency has ever filed for bankruptcy because scales were purchased for patient care.  It doesn’t even have to be a good scale.  It just needs to be the same scale in the same place at the same time each day. 

If you want to provide telemedicine but don’t have the resources, you can get the patients to call their weights into the voicemail of an unused line at your office by three o’clock every day.  Those patients who have not called can then be contacted by a part time student.  Imagine the delight of a surveyor when they see pretty little spreadsheets with weights on them and orders in the chart corresponding with increases or decreases.  Better yet, imagine the horror of the MAC reviewer who desperately wants to deny your claims because care was not reasonable and necessary and sees the very same thing. 

This low-tech telemedicine program also allows you to be more conservative with visits so you can attack weight changes like a SWAT team.  Go ahead and make daily visits for two to four days and cut out some of those visits where the patient is taught that one side effect of Lasix is frequent urination as if they didn’t know after taking it for a year or more.  The worst that could happen by scheduling conservatively while following weights telephonically is that patients will develop the habit of weighing themselves and become more compliant with meds and diet.  Then you actually save money by making fewer visits.  How cool is that?

Don’t stop with failure patients.  The sad fact is that some people don’t have enough to eat.  Your patients are confined to the home and may be too embarrassed to tell you that they do not have enough money for food.  Other elderly people seem to lose their desire for food and still more have side effects from medications that cause increased or decreased appetite.   Whatever the underlying reason, it can only be addressed if you know about it.  Assuming your patients are not wearing tight yoga pants and a sports bra during nurse visits, the easiest way to determine weight changes before harm comes to the patient is by weighing them.

You are nurses.  You can do this.  I promise. If you are one of those nurses who habitually forgets to weigh your patients, think of us for a change.  It will be so much easier to code charts if there are orders and exacerbations.  We’re not asking you to cause an exacerbation by slipping some salt in their tea or moving the needle of the scale up a few pounds.  We just want you find out about an exacerbation and get some orders while the problem is manageable and get paid well for taking good care of patients. 

Face to Face Answers


If you have not already taken the quiz on Face to Face encounter for home health, please do so by clicking here before continuing.  The answers are as follows.

When should the face to face encounter occur?

The face to face encounter should always occur within the 90 days prior to admission for home health services or within 30 days following the admission.  However, if a physician visit in the prior 90 days was not for reasons related to home health services, an additional visit is required related to home health services.

Who may sign the face to face encounter? 

The physician who orders home health services must always sign the face to face encounter. 

How can you  best assist the physician in the face to face process?

The best way to assist the physician is with education.  Not only do physicians resent the additional paperwork but if your agency is following the guidelines, there is a really good chance that you are competing against other agencies that complete the face to face documentation for the physician.  By educating your referral sources, you are also protecting them from inadvertently participating in fraudulent activity. 

A physician documents that a patient is confined to the home because they do not drive.  What should you do?

The correct answer is to visit with the physician and ask him to document why the patient does not drive. Assuming the reason that the patient does not drive is related to their health and not lost keys, the physician will hopefully understand homebound status a little better after your discussion.

Which of the following is not true about Face to Face Documentation?

Although it seems redundant as it is repeated so many times, a common reason for face to face denials is that the physician who certified the plan of care did not sign the face to face document. 

Which of the following is not true about Face to Face Documentation?

Yes, there are two questions that read the same.  This refers to question 8 and the only untrue answer is that the face to face should not be sent by the hospitalist while the referring physician sends the certification.  The face to face document is considered a part of the initial certification.

Everything else is true.  The physician may use drop down boxes in his or her software if they adequately describe the patient.  The entire face to face document may be computer generated and recent denials because the date of the encounter was not handwritten are erroneous on the part of the MAC. That is not a requirement.

Which is true regarding the physician narrative?

The correct answer is that it should contain the patient’s condition at the time of the encounter.  When the face to face documentation differs from the agency documentation, a denial may result.  For instance, a physician states the patient needs therapy and upon admission, the patient refuses therapy.  Because the patient is new anticoagulation therapy, the patient is admitted from services.  This type of discrepancy has resulted in numerous denials.

When is it acceptable to bill without a face to face encounter?

The only time it would be considered acceptable to bill without a face to face encounter would be if the patient dies prior to the 30th day and the agency can show that efforts were in progress for the patient to see the physician.  Please note we are not suggesting that you introduce your patient to the great hereafter if the patient does not go to the physician as planned.

When the referring physician is unavailable, the Medical Director may sign the Certification and Face to Face documentation.  (T/F)

False.  The only time the Medical Director may sign the face to face documentation is on those occasions when the patient was seen and referred by the Medical Director.  These referrals must fall under the confines of Stark and Anti-kickback laws that prohibit the sale of patients.

The face to face documentation is required on all patients admitted to a Medicare certified agency regardless of payor source.  (T/F)

This is actually a trick question because Medicare clearly states that only Medicare patients require a face to face document.  Try telling Humana that.  They are denying claims based on the language in their contracts with agencies that all Medicare rules apply to Humana patients as well.  Get one on everyone just to be safe.

The physician who signs the plan of care must also sign the face to face encounter. (T/F)

If you started this Face to Face adventure believing anything else and you now know better, you have not wasted your time. 

What is true about face to face documents prepared by a hospital physician who then handed off the patient to a community physician?

A final, often overlooked reason for denial is that any document that is used as the face to face document must be clearly labeled as the face to face document.  If the physician merely staples a discharge summary with all the pertinent parts on it to the plan of care, it will not suffice.  ALF’s often have a form that contains al of this information but if it is not labeled as a face to face, it will not count.  Finally, some hospitals have software that generate a document that looks like a face to face without being labeled.  This is an easy fix and I trust you will never be denied for an unlabeled face to face in the future.

How did you do?  Did you learn anything?  Feedback is always welcome and criticism is swallowed whole when offered with our best interests in mind.

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