Physicians get extra time to hone charting skills

Chicago, IL-Physicians should take advantage of a six-month reprieve granted by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to hone their coding and documentation skills.

That's the advice of the American Medical Association (AMA), which is working with HCFA to simplify a set of controversial new physician documentation guidelines.

The guidelines, which cover Evaluation and Management (E&M) services, were supposed to become effective January 1 but were met by a storm of criticism from physicians. Providers complained that the rules were almost impossible to understand, much less implement. Bowing to pressure, HCFA agreed to delay enforcement of the new rules until July.

Physicians should use the time to become as knowledgeable as possible about proper charting and CPT-4 coding procedures, warned Richard Corlin, MD, speaker of the AMA's House of Delegates. Sooner or later, the guidelines will be implemented in some form.

Editor's note: For instructional information about the guidelines and their origins, contact: Celeste Kirschner, director of coding and nomenclature, AMA, Division of Payment Policy and Programs, 515 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60610. Telephone: (312) 464-5000.