E/M Weekly Tip: Counseling/Coordination Documentation Requirements

When counseling and/or coordination of care dominates (more than 50 percent of) the physician/patient and/or family encounter (face-to-face time in the office or other outpatient setting, floor/unit time in the hospital, or NF), time is considered the key or controlling factor to qualify for a particular level of E/M services. If the level of service is reported based on counseling and/or coordination of care, you should document the total length of time of the encounter and the record should describe the counseling and/or activities to coordinate care.

The Level I and Level II CPT® books, available from the American Medical Association, list average time guidelines for a variety of E/M services. These times include work done before, during, and after the encounter. The specific times expressed in the code descriptors are averages and, therefore, represent a range of times that may be higher or lower depending on actual clinical circumstances. 

Reference: Evaluation and Management Services (PDF, 3.9 MB).