Coding Guidelines for Interprofessional Internet Consultations

Interprofessional Internet/Telephone/EHR Consultations

Interprofessional Telephone/Internet/EHR Consultations (99446-99449, 99451, 99452) are assessment and management services in which a patient’s treating (e.g., attending or primary) physician or other QHP requests the opinion and/or treatment advice of a physician with specific specialty expertise (the consultant) to assist the treating physician or other QHP in the diagnosis and/or management of the patient’s problem without patient face-to-face contact with the consultant. Coding Guidelines and edits can change several times a year.

The patient for whom the interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record consultation is requested may be either a new patient to the consultant or an established patient with a new problem or an exacerbation of an existing problem. However, the consultant should not have seen the patient in a face-to-face encounter within the last 14 days. When the telephone/Internet/electronic health record consultation leads to a transfer of care or other face-to-face services (e.g., a surgery, a hospital visit, or a scheduled office evaluation of the patient) within the next 14 days or the next available appointment date of the consultant, these codes are not reported.

Qualifying Criteria for Interprofessional Internet Consultations

Since January 1, 2019, physicians and other Qualified Healthcare Providers (QHCPs) who can independently bill for E/M services can obtain stand-alone reimbursement according to the following criteria:

  1. Billing Practitioner: Billing for interprofessional services is limited to those practitioners that can independently bill Medicare for E/M services. CPT Code 99452 applies to the treating/referring physician or QHCP, and the rest of the codes apply to the consultative physician or QHCP. 
  2. Consent: Verbal patient consent must be documented in the patient’s medical record for each consultation. The patient’s consent must include assurance that the patient is aware of applicable cost-sharing.
  3. Cost Sharing: Providers must collect the requisite co-payment from the patient for each service billed, as with all Medicare Part B services.
  4. The benefit of the Patient: The consultation must be undertaken for the benefit of the patient. Because the patient is going to be responsible for cost-sharing, CMS wants to distinguish these Interprofessional Internet Consultations from those undertaken for the edification of the practitioner, such as information shared as a professional courtesy or as continuing education.

Coding Guidelines for Interprofessional Consultations (99446-99449, 99451,99452)

  • Review of pertinent medical records, laboratory studies, imaging studies, medication profile, pathology specimens, etc. is included in the telephone/Internet/electronic health record consultation service and should not be reported separately when reporting 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449, 99451. 
  • The majority of the service time reported (greater than 50%) must be devoted to the medical consultative verbal or Internet discussion. If greater than 50% of the time for the service is devoted to data review and/or analysis, 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449 should not be reported. However, the service time for 99451 is based on total review and interprofessional communication time. 
  • If more than one telephone/Internet/electronic health record contract(s) is required to complete the consultation request (e.g., discussion of test results), the entirety of the service and the cumulative discussion and information review time should be reported with a single code. 
  • Codes 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449, 99451 should not be reported more than once within a seven-day interval. 
  • The written or verbal request for telephone/Internet/electronic health record advice by the treating/requesting physician or other QHP should be documented in the patient’s medical record, including the reason for the request. 
  • Codes 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449 conclude with a verbal opinion report and written report from the consultant to the treating/requesting physician or other QHP. Code 99451 concludes with only a written report.
  • Telephone/Internet/electronic health record consultations of less than five minutes should not be reported. 
  • Consultant communications with the patient and/or family may be reported using 98966, 98967, 98968, 99421, 99422, 99423, 99441, 99442, 99443, and the time related to these services is not used in reporting 99446-99449. 
  • Do not report 99358, 99359 for any time within the service period, if reporting 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449, 99451. When the sole purpose of the telephone/Internet/electronic health record communication is to arrange a transfer of care or other face-to-face services, these codes are not reported. 
  • The treating/requesting physician or other QHP may report 99452 if spending 16-30 minutes in a service day preparing for the referral and/or communicating with the consultant. Do not report 99452 more than once in a 14-day period. 
  • The treating/requesting physician or other QHP may report the prolonged service codes 99354-99357 for the time spent on the interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record discussion with the consultant (e.g., specialist) if the time exceeds 30 minutes beyond the typical time of the appropriate E/M service performed and the patient is present (on-site) and accessible to the treating/requesting physician or other QHP. 
  • If the interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service occur when the patient is not present and the time spent in a day exceeds 30 minutes, then the non-face-to-face prolonged service codes 99358, 99359 may be reported by the treating/requesting physician or other QHP.

Using appropriate CPT codes ensures accurate payment for rendered services. It could be difficult for a practice owner to stay on top of all coding updates as his major focus is on patient care. MedicalBillersandCoders can help you with inaccurate billing and coding activities. For more information on our billing and coding services, please get in touch with us!