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Open Access Publications from the University of California

New Clarification About Observation Billing May Improve Care for Behavioral Health Patients


Emergency Physicians provide ongoing care to psychiatric patients beyond the confines of a standard emergency room visit.  Often, when we identify patients who need specialty psychiatric care, patients board in the emergency department awaiting acceptance and transfer to an outside facility.  Even in cases where it has taken multiple days to complete the transfer, it has been unclear how to properly obtain reimbursement for this care.  We discuss a new coding clarification that may provide a pathway to improve part of this situation.

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