New Year, New Codes: A Win-Win for Digital Pathology
In July 2022, the American Medical Association CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) Editorial Panel released 13 new digital pathology add-on Category III codes for 2023 that the College of American Pathologists successfully advocated for inclusion.1 These codes are for reporting additional clinical staff work and service requirements associated with digitizing glass microscope slides for primary diagnosis (Table). They go into effect on January 1, 2023.
Although there is no additional compensation with the new Category III codes, dermatopathology laboratories will be able to report when they have made a diagnosis using digital pathology. The new CPT codes will provide payers with data they need to directly understand the utilization and increased value of digital pathology, which will bring dermatopathology laboratories one step closer to receiving additional reimbursement for digital interpretation.
The adoption of digital pathology has been accelerating in the United States but still lags behind many European countries where reimbursement for digital pathology has been established for many years. Many of the barriers to digital pathology have improved—cloud storage is more affordable, scanners have a higher throughput, digital pathology platforms have improved, and the US Food and Drug Administration has granted approvals for digital pathology. Digital pathology allows for more efficient workflow, which results in increased productivity and a reduction in turnaround times. It also allows for a wide spectrum of clinical applications and more innovation as well as research and educational applications.
The new Category III codes cannot be reported solely for archival purposes (eg, after the Category I service has already been performed and reported), solely for educational purposes (eg, when services are not used for individual patient reporting), solely for developing a database for training or validation of artificial intelligence algorithms, and solely for clinical conference presentations (eg, tumor board interdisciplinary conferences).
The new codes are a major victory for the adoption and future compensation for digital pathology.
New Year, New Cuts: Proposed 2023 Medicare Policy and Payment Changes for Dermatologists
The United States Spent $3.8 Trillion on Health Care in 2019: Where Did It Go?—In 2019, approximately $3.8 trillion was spent on health care in the United States (Figure 1). Physician services accounted for approximately 15% of total health care spending.2
Medicare Payments for Physician Services—Medicare payments for physician services are determined by a relative value unit (RVU) multiplied by a conversion factor (CF). Relative value units were set up in 1992 by what is now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and they calculated the time it took a physician to complete a task or RVU and multiplied it by $32.00 (CF).3