BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to characterize Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) coding patterns for professional services in family physician (FP) residency clinics. METHODS: Trained assistants directly observed during every other FP-patient encounter in 10 clinics affiliated with eight residencies of the Residency Research Network of Texas. Three investigators later independently coded each visit for the highest code level reasonably allowed. The primary outcome was the number of clinic visits that were actually coded as a CPT 99203/213 that could have been coded at a higher level. RESULTS: In 850 physician-patient encounters where the CPT code billed was identified, the investigators completely agreed on the allowable code 93% of the time. Overall, a 99203/13 or lower or preventive services code was billed in 651 visits (76.6%), more commonly in resident visits (515/570 [90.4%] vs 136/280 for faculty [48.6%], P<.001). There were 476/660 (72.1%) visits coded at a 99213 or less that could have been coded as a 99204/214 or higher. This was more common in resident visits 385/434 (88.7%), but there was undercoding in faculty patients as well 91/226 (40.3%). We found very few cases of overcoding—16 total. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: FPs coding patient encounters in residency clinics undercode for their work, which leads to decreased clinic revenue. This may be because the primary care exception is felt to be too onerous to bill for higher-paid codes, or a lack of knowledge of CMS coding rules among residents and faculty, or other reasons.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Family Practice