Can time alone be used to select an E/M code?

Answer:
In certain circumstances, time can be used as the key or controlling factor for selecting an evaluation and management (E/M) code. When counseling and/or coordination of care dominates (e.g., more than 50 percent) the physician/patient encounter (e.g., face-to-face time in the office or other outpatient setting or floor/unit time in the hospital or nursing facility), the time may be considered the key or controlling factor to qualify for a particular level of E/M service. The extent of the counseling and/or coordination of care must be documented in the medical record.

Information on E/M guidelines concerning documentation guidelines is available on the CMS Medicare Learning Network website.

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