Evaluation and management billing: Watch out for fraud, electronic medical records pitfalls

August 1, 2011

E&M documentation has been a major problem for many of us since the beginning of the documentation guidelines in 1995.

E&M documentation has been a major problem for many of us since the beginning of the documentation guidelines in 1995. All of you are painfully aware that a new set of guidelines was published in 1997 but was never officially adopted. Currently, one can choose to use either of the two sets of guidelines. In fact, Medicare auditors are required to use both and give you credit for the highest level achieved in either one.

Increased scrutiny by payers

There are several reasons to revisit your E&M documentation, starting with increased scrutiny by payers. A March 15 http://HealthCare.gov/ article outlined the new tools the government is using to fight fraud and protect the health care dollar ( http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/fraud03152011a.html). The article examines portions of the Affordable Care Act that are aimed at fighting "true" (deliberate) fraud. However, a number of the initiatives directly affect you, such as the $350 million to be spent over the next 10 years on increased scrutiny of claims, sophisticated data analytics, and additional law enforcement personnel charged with fighting fraud. In addition, the law sanctioned enhanced penalties, expansion of recovery audit contractor (RAC) activities, and greater oversight of private insurance abuses.

As you are well aware, more groups than ever are looking over your shoulder: Medicare carriers, RACs, the Office of the Inspector General, and Zone Program Integrity Contractors, to name a few. One example of this increased scrutiny comes from Medicare contractor TrailBlazer Health Enterprises, LLC, which recently released results of a chart review it conducted. (Of particular interest is how the group identified the charts to be evaluated and its increased use of "medical necessity" in its determination of errors.) Through statistical analysis, TrailBlazer identified potential improper utilization of established patient visit services billed to Medicare.

Among TrailBlazer's findings were that 91.32% of the charts reviewed from the J4 region (Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, and New Mexico) were reported incorrectly. In Virginia, only 51.43% were in error. Certainly, this is not a statistical example of error rates. However, it very vividly points out the accuracy of its software. It brings to mind the old saying, "You can run, but you can't hide."