Q&A: CMS Standard Operating Procedures for Physical Therapy

July 15, 2016
Medicare Web

Q. I have a question about how to interpret the CMS Standard Operating Procedures. If a requisition/order for physical therapy treatment is received at a hospital facility and is not authenticated (e.g., signed, timed, dated) by a community physician who is not credentialed at the hospital, is it true that facility can begin treatment but the order must be authenticated when it will be filed in the record?

A. Therapy services (e.g., physical, occupational, speech-language pathology) are unique in that an actual order from a physician or non-physician practitioner is not required (see the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 15, Section 220.1). The following is required:

  • The patient must be under the care of a physician
  • The therapy must be provided under a plan of care
  • The physician must certify that plan of care by way of signature and date


In this case, the therapy provider may develop a plan of care and forward it to the physician for certification. Treatment may begin while awaiting the return of the signed plan of care. But the organization staff should do their best to get the signed certification returned within 30 days of start of therapy services.

Because the physician is not on the medical staff, the therapy provider may want to confirm that the physician is enrolled with Medicare and therefore eligible to order and certify services on Medicare recipients.

Ronald Hirsch, MD, FACP, CHCQM, vice president of the Regulations and Education Group at Accretive Health in Chicago, answered this question.

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