Face-to-face encounters may not occur earlier than 30 calendar days prior to the start of the benefit period for which it applies. Certifications may not occur earlier than 15 calendar days prior to the start of the benefit period for which it applies. A required face-to-face encounter must occur prior to its associated certification.
This requirement will better enable hospices to comply with hospice eligibility criteria, and to identify and discharge patients who do not meet those criteria. How to best comply with this regulation will be a determination made upon specific circumstances of each hospice's medical staff, including:
- variability in clinical commitment of current staff, including nurse practitioners
- nonclinical commitments that may include administration, teaching, and research
- productivity data to analyze MD capacity to absorb additional volumes
Several points to keep in mind as you develop a plan to comply with the requirement:
- The face-to-face encounter by the hospice physician or the NP for the purpose of gathering clinical findings to determine continued eligibility for hospice care is NOT billable. The face-to-face requirement is part of the recertification process, and therefore is an administrative activity included in the hospice per diem payment rate.
- The certification or recertification of terminal illness is not a clinical document, but instead is a document supporting eligibility for the benefit and is considered an administrative activity of the hospice physician.
- Providing reasonable and necessary non-administrative patient care services during the face-to-face encounter is billable: If a physician provides reasonable and necessary non-administrative patient care, such as symptom management, to the patient during the visit (for example, the physician decides that a medication change is warranted), that portion of the visit would be billable.
- Billing for medically necessary care provided during the course of a face-to-face encounter should flow through the hospice and be billed as physician services under Part A, as the hospice physician or NP who sees the patient is employed by or, where permitted, working under arrangement with the hospice (for example, a contracted physician).
- If there is a billable portion of the visit, hospices must maintain medical documentation that is clear and precise to substantiate the reason for the medically necessary services separate from the face-to-face encounter related to recertification. Documentation of the face-to-face encounter and any other medically necessary patient care services provided during the visit can be included in one note. Visit documentation should, of course, clearly support any billable services that were provided.
- Medically necessary care provided during the course of a face-to-face encounter by an NP can be billed only if the NP has been designated as the patient's attending physician.
- There is no requirement that the visit must take place in the patient's home---- it could take place in practitioner's office.
- Electronic signatures are permitted on hospice certifications and recertifications. Narrative and the face-to-face attestation are parts of the certification or recertification and may also be signed electronically.
- Use of telemedicine to perform the visit is not permitted.
- Attendings cannot do the face-to-face visit without becoming a "hospice physician".
Much to consider, to be sure.