What does it mean that 25% of ALL coding changes are related to Gastroenterology?
American Medical Association (AMA) added 175 new codes, revised 107 CPT/ procedure codes this year – 25% of them are related to gastroenterology (26 new codes, 41 revised codes and 17 deleted codes). Let’s consider an example.
If a patient showed up with a tumor in her esophagus, a gastroenterologist typically performs an esophagoscopy using snare technique to remove the tumor. A new technique has been doing the rounds during the past few years called Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) – it uses a suction mechanism to yank the tumor out from the skin before it’s cut. The technique helps in controlling unnecessary bleeding. Up until this year, EMR had no code. But this year, AMA recognized it with 43211 – a new code.
Up until this year, it didn’t matter whether a gastroenterologist used a flexible/ rigid scope or went in through the nose/ mouth during an esophagoscopy. But with the coding changes, it matters now – there’s increasing specificity.
What do examples of such coding additions/ changes mean for gastroenterology? At a very broad level, it simply means that there’s a shift underway. The patients are the same, the disease conditions are similar but how something can be diagnosed and treated is actively undergoing a change. Ambulatory surgery centers consider traditional upper and lower GI procedures as their bread and butter. But with steady innovation, better understanding and wider spread of newer techniques, the specialty will become even more specialized. Traditional procedures will continue to see declining reimbursements.
Knowing what we know of medicine, as procedures become mainstream, reimbursements decline and newer techniques become the preferred approach. It may be entirely possible that EMR may replace traditional esophagoscopy in the future. What if enough artificial intelligence algorithms may be built in to identify polyps from a video produced by a Video Capsule Endoscopy? What if the algorithms identify all possible polyps big and small throughout the digestive tract? Such thorough and extreme accuracy would be impossible with traditional colonoscopy that involves human hands and eyes. What would happen then to doctors who are not used to learning or experimenting with new procedures?
It’s also expected that in 2015, there would be lower gastroenterology coding changes. These coding changes are simply an acceptance of newer methods to treat and fix conditions and also a gentle nudge to gastroenterologists to stay current in their fields.
By Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices