The American Medical Association has released CPT code set changes 2019, and among them are some new options specific to digital health practices.
While providing such codes is a no-brainer — and if anything, the AMA is late to the party – it’s still a bit of noteworthy news, as it could have an impact on the progress of digital care. After all, the new codes to make it easier to capture the value of some activities providers may be self-funding at present. They can also help physicians track the amount of time they spend on remote monitoring and digital care coordination more easily.
The 2019 release includes 335 changes to the existing code set, such as new and revised codes for adaptive behavior analysis, skin biopsy and central nervous system assessments. The new release also includes five new digital care-related codes.
The 2019 code set includes three new remote patient monitoring codes meant to capture how clinicians connect with patients at home and gather data from care management and coordination, and two new “interprofessional” Internet consult codes for reporting on care coordination discussions between a consulting physician and the treating physician
It’s good to see the AMA follow up with this issue. To date, there have been few effective ways to capture the benefits of interactive care online or even via email exchanges between physician and patient.
As a result, providers have been trapped in a vicious circle in which virtual care doesn’t get documented adequately, payers don’t reimburse because they don’t have the data needed to evaluate its effectiveness and providers don’t keep offering such services because they don’t get paid for performing them.
With the emergence of just five new CPT codes, however, things could begin to change for the better. For example, if physicians are getting paid to consult digitally with their peers on patient care, that gives vendors incentives to support these activities with better technology. This, in turn, can produce better results. Now we’re talking about a virtuous circle instead.
Obviously, it will take a lot more codes to document virtual care processes adequately. The introduction of these five new codes represents a very tentative first step at best. Still, it’s good to see the AMA avoid the chicken-and egg-problem and simply begin to lay the tracks for better-documented digital care. We’ve got to start somewhere.