Cardiology Coding Alert

Reader Questions:

Find Out How to Properly Use Modifier 25

Question: Have the modifier 25 rules changed now that the evaluation and management (E/M) guidelines are different? My co-worker says they have, I thought they hadn’t.

Texas Subscriber

Answer: The rules around modifier 25 (Significant, separately identifiable evaluation and management service by the same physician or other qualified health care professional on the same day of the procedure or other service) haven’t changed, but in some ways, the way you apply this modifier are different than they were in the past.

Flash back to five years ago: You wanted to append modifier 25 to an E/M code to demonstrate that you performed a significant, separately identifiable E/M service in addition to a procedure. At that point, you were probably sure to check whether the provider documented enough data in the history and physical exam sections of their progress notes so that anyone reviewing them would easily be able to see the separate E/M service they performed in addition to the procedure.

However, the lines of where an E/M service ends and a procedure begins may seem to be more blurred now that E/M codes are selected solely based on time spent or the medical decision making (MDM) component.

At present with the 2021 guidelines, the only history and physical information that requires documentation relating to office-based E/M services are those which are clinically relevant; that is, history and exam play no role in choosing the E/M level. Therefore, to report an E/M plus a procedure, a provider must perform, and document, enough to satisfy that level of new or established work in addition to that of the procedure.