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Family Practice Coding Alert

These Clues Help You Tell 3 Integumentary Procedures Apart

Key: Let method drive your biopsy versus destruction coding You can more easily determine whether your family physician (FP) performed a biopsy or destruction if you follow these three steps: Step 1: Look at Method To distinguish between procedure codes 11100-11101, 17000-17004 and 17110-17111, you should first check your FP's notes for the method she used.
 
Key words: Examine the note to determine whether the physician biopsied or destroyed the lesion. Lesion biopsy indicates the FP performed 11100 (Biopsy of skin, subcutaneous tissue and/or mucous membrane [including simple closure], unless otherwise listed; single lesion) or +11101 (... each separate/additional lesion [list separately in addition to code for primary procedure]). If she destroyed the lesion, you should code a destruction, such as 17000-17004 or 17110-17110.
 
Sometimes, however, FPs don't include the procedure information in the chart note. "You may have to let the lesion method drive your biopsy versus destruction coding," says Patricia Davis, CPC, business office supervisor at Middlesex Health System Primary Care in Middletown, Ct. In this case, knowing which method corresponds to what procedure will clue you into the proper code.
 
CPT's destruction notes indicate you may report 17000-17004 and 17110-17111 for any method of destruction, says Pamela J. Biffle, CPC, CCS-P, ACS-DE, approved PMCC instructor, product development director of Custom Coding Books in Bellevue, Wash.
 
Bill a destruction code when the FP destroys an entire lesion using these methods:
  electrosurgery
  cryosurgery
  laser and chemical treatment
  surgical curettement. Hint: If your FP's notes state "LN2," you should report a destruction code. "The symbol stands for liquid nitrogen, which a physician uses in cryosurgery to freeze a wart," says Biffle. On the other hand, 11100 refers to obtaining tissue. The FP may biopsy the lesion by:
  shaving
  any sharp instrument, such as a punch tool or knife. Problem: Notes that include contradictory phrases, such as "destroyed wart and sent for biopsy," may leave you still guessing which code set to choose. "Encourage your physician to reserve the term, 'biopsy,' to refer to the procedure," Biffle suggests.
 
Alternative: If you don't have access to the FP, delve further into the chart note with the next step. Step 2: Check Procedure's Purpose If you can figure out why the FP performed the lesion procedure, you'll have a better idea of whether you should code a biopsy (11100) or destruction (17000-17004, 17110-17111). A physician biopsies or destroys a lesion for different reasons.
 
Biopsy determines diagnosis: In 11100, the FP wants to obtain a diagnosis. "A biopsy involves taking a piece of a neoplasm or abnormality to examine the specimen microscopically," says Davis.
 
The FP wants to know whether the lesion is cancerous or benign. "Therefore, he will always send the specimen to pathology," says Davis.
 
Destruction eliminates lesion: [...]


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