CPT Codes Updated for Coding Telehealth

Healthcare has always been directly impacted by technological advances, and CPT codes are no exception. Last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) released the 2019 Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set. The reason behind the update? The introduction of new codes that aid healthcare providers in billing for remote patient monitoring and internet consulting.

 “The latest annual changes to the CPT code set reflect new technological and scientific advancements available to mainstream clinical practice, and ensure the code set can fulfill its trusted role as the health system’s common language for reporting contemporary medical procedures,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAney, MD. In short, these codes have been added due to telehealth’s increased use and prevalence in the healthcare community.

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What Does the Update Include?

In the updated edition of the CPT, there are 335 code changes. 3 of these altered codes specifically reference remote patient monitoring. These allow for the correct coding for doctors who connect to patients who are unable to come into the office, and also enable data gathering for care management and coordination. 2 other new codes reference the nonverbal communication technology—such as texts and emails—that coordinate care between a consulting and treating physician.

This shift to include telehealth-based codes has already been praised by a number of healthcare-related organizations. One such group is ACT, the App Association, a trade group that represents app companies and IT firms. They laud the move as a step in the right direction when it comes to bringing digital health tools into the delivery of care.

Additionally, other revised CPT codes include more standard items, such as skin biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, adaptive behavior analysis, and central nervous system assessments (like psychological and neuropsychological testing).

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telemedicine_1All of the new codes, telehealth-related or not, will be put into use on January 1st, 2019. The AMA has released these new codes a full four months before they go into effect in an attempt to ease the transition from the older version to the new one.

While not directly connected to CPT codes, there’s a push for better billing procedures when it comes to telehealth as well. In June of this year, 50 health IT stakeholders have requested that the CMS expand reimbursement for remote monitoring services—aka telehealth—in its next physician payment rule. The updated CPT codes and better crafted billing standards will work in tandem to make telehealth as effective and far reaching as possible.

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