CPT Code 97032: Application of a Modality to One or More Areas; Electrical Stimulation (Manual) - Chirotouch
May 21, 2024 by ChiroTouch Team Article
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In this quick-reference guide to CPT code 97032, we answer frequently asked questions from our community of chiropractors. Follow us for other articles in our ongoing series, courtesy of ChiroTouch, the cloud-based EHR designed specifically for chiropractors. 

NOTE: CPT codes and guidelines can be revised over time. To avoid billing issues, be sure to stay current with annual coding updates and changes to payer guidelines.

About CPT Code 97032: Application of a Modality to One or More Areas; Electrical Stimulation (Manual), Each 15 Minutes

CPT code 97032 denotes the manual application of electrical stimulation therapy to one or more areas of a patient’s body. This therapy aims to alleviate pain, enhance muscle function, and facilitate healing through the use of electrical currents administered manually.

The key elements of this code are:

  • Manual application. The therapy is manually administered by a chiropractor or physical therapist under their direct supervision. (Specific requirements for supervision levels may vary by state and payer, but unattended electrical stimulation is typically billed using code G0283.)
  • Electrical stimulation. This modality involves the use of electrical currents for therapeutic purposes.
  • Time-based billing. Each unit of code 97032 represents 15 minutes of therapy provided to the patient.

Category or Type of Service

CPT code 97032 falls under the category of modalities, specifically representing manual electrical stimulation therapy. It is commonly used in chiropractic care to complement treatment interventions and aid in patient recovery.

Billing Interval

Billing for CPT code 97032 is based on the duration of therapy provided during each encounter. Each unit of the code corresponds to 15 minutes of therapy, but treatment must be provided and billed for at least eight minutes.

When Should Chiropractors Use CPT Code 97032?

Chiropractors should employ CPT code 97032 only when delivering manual electrical stimulation therapy to patients during treatment sessions.

When Should Chiropractors Not Use This Code?

Chiropractors should refrain from using CPT code 97032 if the electrical stimulation therapy is delivered using automated devices rather than manual application. Other CPT codes are specifically intended for therapies using automated electrical stimulation devices, such as CPT 97014 (electrical stimulation, unattended).

Note that this code does not cover the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit. For the provision and setup of a TENS unit for home use, CPT codes like 64550 (Application of surface (transcutaneous) neurostimulator (TENS unit)) might be more appropriate. Additionally, if a healthcare provider is instructing a patient on how to use the TENS unit, there may be other relevant codes for the education and setup of the device.

Which Modifiers Can Be Used With CPT Code 97032?

Modifiers can provide additional context when billing for services. Common modifiers used with CPT code 97032 include:

  • Modifier 25. This modifier indicates that a separately identifiable Evaluation and Management (E/M) service was performed by the same physician or qualified healthcare professional on the same day as a procedure or other service (like manual electrical stimulation).
  • Modifier 59. This indicates that the therapy session involving manual electrical stimulation is distinct or independent from other services provided on the same day.
  • Modifier GP. This modifier is used to signify services delivered under an outpatient physical therapy plan of care.

What Are the Billing Guidelines and Documentation Requirements Specific to This Code?

Adhere to the following guidelines when billing for services using CPT code 97032:

  • Accurate time tracking. Document the duration of manual electrical stimulation therapy provided to each patient.
  • Direct therapist involvement. Ensure the therapy is applied manually by the chiropractor or under their direct supervision.
  • Medical necessity. Document the rationale for providing electrical stimulation therapy and its relevance to the patient’s treatment plan.

Common Mistakes Made Specific to CPT Code 97032

Avoid these common mistakes when using CPT code 97032:

  • Incorrect application. Ensure that electrical stimulation therapy is applied manually in accordance with the code description.
  • Inaccurate time tracking. Bill for the actual duration of therapy provided, for at least 8 minutes then rounded up to the nearest 15-minute increment.
  • Lack of documentation. Provide detailed documentation supporting medical necessity and effectiveness of electrical stimulation therapy for each patient.

Potential Audit Triggers Specific to This CPT Code

Be mindful of potential audit triggers associated with CPT code 97032, including:

  • Excessive billing. Auditors may scrutinize instances of frequent or prolonged use of manual electrical stimulation therapy.
  • Inconsistent documentation. Ensure that documentation accurately reflects the therapy provided, including its duration and therapeutic goals.
  • Lack of medical necessity. Auditors will want to see clear justification in the patient’s records for why manual electrical stimulation therapy was chosen as part of their treatment plan. Vague or insufficient documentation of the rationale for the treatment could trigger audit scrutiny.
  • Use with unrelated treatments. If CPT 97032 is frequently billed alongside other services or treatments that don’t seem clinically connected to the need for electrical stimulation, this could raise questions and lead to an audit.
  • Billing for supervision time. CPT code 97032 should only reflect the direct hands-on time of the provider. If the code is being used to bill for time when the treatment provider was merely supervising, this would be considered an incorrect practice.
  • Upcoding: Billing for multiple units of CPT code 97032 (more time) than was spent with the patient is a serious form of fraud that can lead to significant penalties.
  • Aberrant billing patterns. Substantial deviations from typical billing patterns amongst other providers using CPT 97032 may catch the attention of auditors. This includes both unusually high and unusually low utilization of the code.

Improving Billing and Coding Processes

Chiropractors can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of their billing and coding processes by:

  • Conducting comprehensive reviews of billing and coding practices to identify and rectify any discrepancies.
  • Staying informed about coding updates and regulations through ongoing education and training initiatives.
  • Making effective use of electronic health record (EHR) systems and practice management software to streamline billing and coding workflows.

By adhering to these guidelines, chiropractors can optimize their billing and coding practices and ensure compliance with industry standards.

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