And I always like to have a little bit of time to talk about what codes are billable, how do we build them? What do we do correctly? I think that’s often a problem, by example, what actually is manual therapy?
Okay. All right. I apologize for some technical difficulties, but welcome. This is Samuel Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture, and specifically the American Acupuncture Council network, your go-to place for making sure you’re coding and billing are together. And quite frankly, your business sense. So if you’ve not checked us out, come to our site, but let’s focus in on what we want to talk about today. And I always like to have a little bit of time to talk about what codes are billable, how do we build them? What do we do correctly? I think that’s often a problem, by example, what actually is manual therapy? What does that mean? And how is it different? So let’s, let’s start here. Let’s talk about what manual therapy is. Well, part of dealing with CPT codes. I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched the show, the bachelor, and I’m a little embarrassed to say.
I have seen it not very much, but I, one time looked at the CPT codes and realize CPT codes are often simply like the bachelor. What I mean by that is you ever notice how kind of ambiguous sometimes they are. So think of it this way, the bachelor like CPT codes tends to be ambiguous, overlapping, and not clear to what their intent is. So think along these lines, when you look at these two codes and you’ll see here, I have them highlighted massage 9 7 1 2 4 and manual therapy, 9 7 1 4 0. How are those different? I mean, if you think of it, isn’t massage a manual therapy, isn’t it hands-on. And so that’s one of the issues we have to kind of deal with was where’s this differentiation.
So by example, take a look at these two pictures, the picture on the left picture, on the right, which of those actually would constitute bodywork. And what I mean by that is, is the one on the left massage, or is it manual therapy or is the one on the right? And there, I think is one of the issues I think we have to address for acupuncture providers is to really differentiate between the two as to what are we doing? Why are we doing it? If you will, where we’re doing it. And all those factors come into the coding and billing. Obviously body work is something that’s integrated into the acupuncture principles and traditional medicine for that matter. So let’s take a look. What is massage? Massage says, it’s a procedure that includes Effler Rouge, you know, circular motion, petrosal lifting and squeezing to potent stroking, percussion, even needing.
So again, kind of the standard massage things we all think of. And what’s the purpose of it? Well, muscle function to an extent, but if you think of it, probably relaxation, circulation, stiffness, uh, generically, it’s used to increase circulation and promote tissue relaxation. If you think about why do people get massages to relax that can help modulate pain a little bit. So, okay. So that’s the purpose of massage and that’s the style now, conversely, let’s talk about what is manual therapy? Well, let’s first look at the code manual therapy or the service manual therapy, 9 7 1 4 0. It says specifically in the CPT manual that says they are manual therapy techniques that include by example, mobilization manipulation, manual lymphatic drainage, manual traction, and it says one or more regions. Now that’s not a very big description when you think of it. So manual therapy techniques basically are hands-on services that go beyond standard.
Just simple massage, more, I would say deep tissue, if you will kind of to break up adhesions comparative to say just simple massage notice here, it includes things like manual trigger point therapy or myofascial release. Those would certainly be considered within that. Now let’s talk about it from a standpoint, how is it defined under the standards by the American physical therapy association? Since they’re the one that commonly used it let’s look at what they say. It says manual therapy techniques are skilled hand movements and skilled passive movements of joints and soft tissues that are intended to improve tissue extensibility. Now, I want you to notice here, the difference of that two massage massage said relaxation. This notice says tissue extensibility, and it says increased range of motion, induce relaxation. So there’s some overlap, modulating pain and reduced soft tissue, swelling, inflammation, or restrictions techniques may include manual lymphatic drainage, traction, you know, massage mobilization.
So you’re kind of going, well, wait a minute. They’re just kind of saying the same thing. So really how do I differentiate? What is manual therapy, comparatively? So types of manual therapy, well, manual traction. Is that something that acupuncturists might do? I think so joint mobilization. I want to be a little bit careful there because obviously you can’t do manipulation, but mobilization of movement certainly makes sense. And then there is of course myofascial release, and I think that’s the one we focus a little bit more on. So you notice here, a myofascial release says soft tissue mobilization. One or more regions may be medically necessary for the treatment of restricted motion and the soft tissues involved in the neck and extremities. So in other words, notice the emphasis towards manual therapy to be about tissue extensibility, that there’s restricted motion.
So manual therapy, what’s the difference? The difference is more about the goal of it. Obviously you put two hands on a person like those pictures I showed earlier, which is massage or manual therapy. It’s more about what you’re attempting to accomplish. So notice here, it says the goals of manual therapy are to treat restricted motion of soft tissues in the extremities, neck or otherwise, and restore soft tissue function or muscle function, meaning a restricted area. You’re breaking up the adhesions. So there’s normal movement movement without pain and increased extensibility. So you notice the keep emphasis here on extensibility. So how would you differentiate if you’re doing a hands-on simple squeezing, I would say certainly would fit massage, but if you’re doing it to break up literally adhesions in the muscles or restricted muscle that has now been shortened, that would be the myofascial release or if you will manual therapy.
So where do we fit that though with traditional medicine statements that include things like TuiNa or Washa? So TuiNa of course is literally the meaning of pension pool refers to a wide range of traditional medicine bodywork, but it’s considered probably the oldest. In fact, I would say everyone that’s doing massage is probably a form of this to an extent anyway. So with between a fit, as manual therapy or massage, well, I will say it could fit both because it depends on the level, the depth and what you’re trying to accomplish. So think along the lines of more, what is the goal of the therapy more than just because it’s hands-on, hands-on doesn’t necessarily mean it’s massage or manual therapy, but what you’re doing, but the why you’re doing it now, what about what shadow it says to scrape? That’s what it literally means. And it says a method in traditional or in traditional Chinese medicine, which includes the skin of the neck back.
And shoulders are limbs with dis lubricated and pressured or scraped with a round edge instrument. I think much like that. You’ve seen where people do these things called fascial abrasion techniques or breast in which I think often is just really a bastardization of Washoe to an extent. Now I’ve seen wash out, include a lot of things. So I want to be careful, I’m talking about that tissue scraping. Now, what would that purpose be? It’s done manually, even though it’s with the tool, it could be with your hand. Would that be more for a release than it would be for relaxation, obviously, an area that has an adhesion. You want to break apart that scar tissue that’s going to be more the myofascial release or the manual therapy. So what I’m trying to bring back here is that what you want to look at when you’re doing hands-on therapies to distinguish whether it’s massage simple or manual therapy is more about what is the outcome that you’re looking for?
What are you looking to change? So within that, I want you to think of purpose. What is the purpose of what I’m doing? That’s going to define it more in CPT. What they say is don’t choose a code that approximate, but what says exactly? So you might be doing a manual therapy. Let me use the term broadly, but yet it could be massage or it could be the more deep tissue work which equals the code for manual fare. Remember manual therapy was a code introduced in 1999 that replaced a lot of codes. It replaced traction, it replaced myofascial release. So it’s kind of a conglomerate code, but more meaning again for our purposes, kind of the deep tissue. So what I’d like you to think of is that when you’re appropriately coding for manual therapy, what is the purpose? If it is for tissue extensibility and range of motion, manual therapy after for simple muscle relaxation and pain modulation massage, okay.
Now beyond purpose, then I’ll go back to this picture, which of these is this massage or manual therapy? Obviously, as I mentioned, you can’t tell, but I will tell you the one on the right is the manual therapy picture. And the reason why is that one is being done to break up adhesions within the gastrocnemius and soleus in order to reduce restricted movement to the Achilles tendon. Whereas the one on the left, though, you could argue, what’s going to be, could be as deep that’s clueless, just relax the trapezius area in the shoulder region, if you will. So think of if I’m going to bill for manual therapy or provide manual therapy, just make sure you’re documenting the manual therapy. It’s hands-on but more about the purpose and the goal. So within that, what do you need to document? And this is really important part.
Obviously, if you’re billing for manual therapy, the big issue is that we have to show it. So documentation must be include that area. You’re doing the service also though, the or technique you’re using. And again, there could be a wide variety. Don’t be afraid of describing things like muscle, energy, PNF, things of that nature would fit certainly statements of myofascial release. What I want you to be careful of is don’t simply say I did manual therapy, identify what the styler technique was also indicate there, the start and stop times, or frankly, just the time. Remember this is a time service, much like is acupuncture. And so you do have to document time. Now you can document time. A couple of ways. You can just tell me how many minutes you spent, or you can do from into, if you say, Hey, I started at 10 and I ended at 10 20 of the 20 minutes either way, tell me how much time you spent because it’s time derivative.
And then along with that, the expected goals, and this is probably the more important factor to make sure you distinguish it from massage. I did myofascial release to the right shoulder to increase range of motion due to restrictions about the, you know, the clavicle area or the deltoid, something of that nature. Subscapularis you name it? Any of those would certainly be fit, but just tell me what the goal is. It’s more about the outcome then the service, could there be a mixture? What if you did some deep tissue work, but it also included a little bit of massage? Well, that certainly is fine. Just remember the bulk of the work would be the manual therapy. Therefore that would be the more appropriate code to bill. Now it is a 15 minute service and I’m sure you’re all aware. Does it require the full 15 minutes to bill for one unit just like acupuncture.
You do not have to spend a full 15 minutes face-to-face but at least eight minutes. So remember the eight minute rule does apply with this code as it would with massage for that matter. Now what it was billable here though. So here’s something I want to bring up about the eight minute rule. That’s often confusing. In fact, I did a program this weekend at the Florida state Oriental medical association. And one of the questions that came up was about timing. So I’m going to give you a little quiz here. Let’s see if you can pass. What is billable here? What if I do tend to 10 minutes, face-to-face doing acupuncture. You know, I insert some needles manual. And in addition to that, I do another 10 minutes of massage or manual therapy, either one don’t care. So I’ve spent 10 minutes on one, 10 minutes on it, the other, what can I, bill?
What will you bill for this visit? Can I bill for both codes? I’ll give you a moment to think about it, which is appropriate. Well, what is going to be appropriate? We have to do the eight minute rule. The time you spent with the patient, if you recall was 20 minutes total, remember 10 minutes in 10 minutes. Therefore, how many units is 10 minutes? We’ll look at this little chart and you’ll notice one unit is eight to 22 minutes. So if you only spent 20 minutes, can you bill for two units? And this is what’s important to remember, even though you’re doing two separate services, the time is cumulative. So if you’ve only seen, I spent 20 minutes, you cannot build both codes. Now you get to build one of them. Of course. And you always get to build the one that has a higher value, but you can’t build both.
So do make it important to always document time. Now, keep in mind. That’s because you spend 20 minutes. What if you actually spent, say 13 minutes on acupuncture and 10 minutes on the manual therapy would both be billable. Well, they would because you’ll notice two units is 23 minutes. So it becomes very imperative that you document the time properly in your file because frankly, that’s all someone’s ever going to look at. They’re not going to question so much the service as much as did you document it. What did you do? Where did you do it? And how much time did you spend?
So what about modifiers though? And this is a confusing area for acupuncturist because I’ve seen many of you say, Hey, do I need to have a modifier 59? When I bill this therapy? And the Frank answer is you do not. No modifier is typical on a claim for an acupuncturist when it comes to physical medicine codes for most plans. Now, bear in mind. Some people will think, oh, I have to put modifier 59. That is necessary for chiropractic providers, but it is not necessary for you. Chiropractors have to demonstrate a separate from manipulation, but not for acupuncture. So a 59 is not necessary on this code because it doesn’t have to be distinguished from something else. There’s no correlation of manual therapy to acupuncture. However, what but you want to make sure is is that though I don’t need to distinguish it from acupuncture. Are there some things we might have to do?
And this is something I want to make clear to not have anyone confused. We’ve done a program on this. You’ve been to a seminar with me. You’ve heard me talk about it as well. How about plans like United health care, Optum health, Anthem blue. Those companies require that when you build a physical medicine code, which includes manual therapy, you have to include modifier 59 or excuse me, modifier, GP, excuse me. So that true for all physical medicine codes. So if you’re billing a physical medicine code to United Optum Anthem, put a GP. Now notice, I didn’t say Aetna, I didn’t say Cigna. So don’t automatically add those in just because you’re billing, but to those carers only, but distinctively doesn’t acupuncturist need to put a 59 on manual therapy. You do not. There’s no need to distinguish it as a separate distinct service. So keep it simple, provide the manual therapy, why to reduce adhesions, increase range of motion.
If you’re doing it more for relaxation, likely massage bottom line is let’s make sure we’ve documented and build for it. Ultimately, if you’re providing a service, I want us to be reimbursed for it. I don’t think you should have a free clinic. No one has free clinics or at least at least no one. That’s trying to make a profit off of it. So I want you to keep in mind though. What about your state now? Of course, this is going across the whole United States. Now do most states have licensure for acupuncturists where they can do manual therapy or therapies? They do. By example, I’ll give one New Jersey has a very broad scope of practice, which clearly allows the service, but New York does not states like Florida do. And most states do so make sure you know, your state and what you’re allowed to do. But I will say generically, most states do allow adjunctive therapies and this can be within scope, but always check within your state to make sure am I practicing within my scope because some states do not.
So I don’t want to make this a blanket that everyone can do it because it may not be within your scope. Ultimately, what we want to be able to do is to make sure your practice can continue to thrive and enhance the care of your patients. I want you to do the services that are necessary for your patients to recover and get the best outcomes. Manual therapy certainly can be part of that. Let’s make sure we bill it right by documenting what we’re doing, where we’re doing it and the purpose. And of course time, ultimately we are your resource. If you’ve not taken a moment, come to our site, the American Acupuncture Council Network, AAC info network. We’ve got a new section there that is free to all of you. Don’t even have to be a member. We normally have a membership where I become part of your office.
I help you on a day-to-day basis with all types of issues, but we post a new section. So if you’ve not seen that, I would suggest take a look there. Cause we’ve got a lot of updated information on requirements for vaccines, whether it is or is not what’s going on with other issues regarding the ADA and other issues for acupuncture offices. So with that, I’m going to say thank you all very much. I’m glad to always spend time with you. Next week will be Virginia Doran and as always the American Acupuncture Council is always your resource as am I come and take a look, go to my Facebook page as well. And I welcome any questions from you. Thank you everyone. See you next time.