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[Blog Series] Group vs. Concurrent Therapy Part 1: Are You Documenting Accurately?

March 04, 2020
Documentation, Billing, & Coding By Deena Farley, Consultant

As of October 1, 2019, for Medicare A recipients, Resource Utilization Groups (RUGS) IV is out and the Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) is in— and no matter your feelings on the subject, it is here to stay. Hopefully, you and your facility are becoming more comfortable in understanding the multifaceted components of PDPM. Although the reimbursement model has changed, the regulations outlined in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Benefit Policy Manual (MBPM) Chapter 8 have not changed. The delivery and evidence of supportive documentation of skilled reasonable and medically necessary services is imperative.

 

Part 1 Group vs. Concurrent Therapy_edited

This two-part blog series will focus on the mode of therapy provisions for group and concurrent therapy for skilled nursing facilities under Medicare A. Based on recent audits conducted by LW, Consulting Inc. (LWCI), it is clear that not all therapists understand the difference between group and concurrent therapy. A refresher in how to document effectively so that medical necessity guidelines are still being met is a start. Despite the change in Medicare reimbursement, the provisions of ensuring that documentation meets medically necessary skilled guidelines is still being enforced and examined judiciously. In assisting with understanding if proper standards are being upheld, we thought it would be worth re-examining the role of concurrent and group therapy in skilled nursing facilities and reiterate a knowledge base of how to properly document supportive services using best practice guidelines.

This initial blog will focus on mode of therapy provisions under this new payment model and address the documentation guidelines regarding group and concurrent therapy. The second part of this series will then provide you with actual documentation examples that may not support group and concurrent therapy as skilled and reasonable.

Group and Concurrent Therapy Definitions

First, let’s discuss the definitions of group and concurrent therapy under Medicare A policy. Both definitions can be found in the RAI Manual, Pages O-23-O-25.  After years of reform to the provisions of group and concurrent therapy, CMS currently defines group therapy for Part A as the treatment of two to six residents, regardless of payer source, who are performing the same or similar activities and are supervised by a therapist or an assistant who is not supervising any other individuals. When utilizing group therapy, it should be clear from the documentation as to why the patient would benefit from group therapy. Group therapy must be outlined on the initial plan of treatment, and it should be evident that the focus of the group relates to each patient’s outlined goals.

Concurrent therapy is defined as the treatment of two residents at the same time when the residents are not performing the same or similar activities, regardless of payer source, both of whom must be in line-of-sight of the treating therapist or assistant for Medicare Part A. The Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI) Manual October 2019 Section O, page 0-23, Modes of Therapy outlines best practice guidelines for choosing a particular mode of therapy.

Per the RAI Manual, a resident may receive therapy via different modes during the same day or even treatment session. When developing the plan of care, the therapist and assistant must determine which mode(s) of therapy and the amount of time the resident receives for each mode and code the MDS appropriately. The therapist and assistant should document the reason a specific mode of therapy was chosen as well as anticipated goals for that mode of therapy. For any therapy that does not meet one of the therapy mode definitions below, those minutes may not be counted on the MDS. The therapy mode definitions must always be followed and apply regardless of when the therapy is provided in relationship to all assessment windows (i.e., applies whether or not the resident is in a look back period for an MDS assessment).

Concurrent therapy can be documented when the therapist is treating more than one patient during a specified duration and if the patient is appropriate for this mode. CMS specifies “concurrent therapy should be performed only when it is clinically appropriate to render care to more than one individual (other than group therapy) at the same time.”

Once a therapist understands what mode of therapy they are utilizing for the treatment, whether it be individual, group, or concurrent, best practice would be to clearly outline the components in the documentation that support the selected mode.

Documenting Group and Concurrent Therapy

Let’s break this down a little further. In order to code minutes to group or concurrent therapy, the therapist should first understand the definition. If he/she feels a particular resident can benefit from a certain mode, this should be clarified. For example, if group therapy is being utilized, it should be included in the list of interventions on the initial plan of care and/or an order including group therapy needs to be evident in the medical record. Once those steps are taken and the therapist administers group or concurrent therapy, it should be clear from the documentation why the resident is being treated using that mode, and how it aligns with this specific patient’s goals. Furthermore, the patient should be clinically appropriate for whatever mode is administered. If it is apparent from the documentation that the patient needs individual treatment, the minutes may be at risk for not being supported as reasonable and necessary. The need for one-on-one treatment could be due to requiring maximum physical assistance or continual cues due to a cognitive deficit or neglect. Some patients may not be a suitable candidate for modes other than individual due to their clinical status.

It is apparent that some therapists may not be documenting properly. In Part 2 of this series, we will review some actual examples to help you and your staff better understand how to effectively administer and document group and concurrent therapy

 

Need assistance managing PDPM, guidance with audits or additional training for your therapists? Call Deborah Alexander at 717-213-3122 or email DAlexander@LW-Consult.com

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