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Porphyria Educational Services


Porphyria Educational Services Bulletin Vol. 2 No. 41 October 15, 2000
FOCUS: CPT Medical Coding


CPT coding a process of coding your medical diagnosis and procedures. The letters CPT stand for "Current Procedural Terminology " (CPT). Many hospital and clinic billings will have a number listed under the heading CPT. Every disease, procedure or medical equipment is indexed by a CPT number.

The CPT is a listing of descriptive terms and identifying codes for reporting medical services and procedures.

The purpose of CPT is to provide a uniform language that accurately describes medical, surgical, and diagnostic services, and thereby serves as an effective means for reliable nationwide communication among physicians, patients, and third parties.

How is CPT used? CPT descriptive terms and identifying codes currently serve a wide variety of important functions. This work of terminology is the most widely accepted medical nomenclature used to report medical procedures and services under public and private health insurance programs.

CPT is also used for administrative management purposes such as claims processing and developing guidelines for medical care review.

The uniform language is likewise applicable to medical education and research by providing a useful basis for local, regional, and national utilization comparisons.

CPT has a long and involved history. The American Medical Association (AMA) first developed and published CPT in 1966.

The first edition helped encourage the use of standard terms and descriptors to document procedures in the medical record; helped communicate accurate information on procedures and services to agencies concerned with insurance claims; provided the basis for a computer-oriented system to evaluate operative procedures; and contributed basic information for actuarial and statistical purposes.

The first edition of the CPT code book contained primarily surgical procedures, with limited sections on medicine, radiology, and laboratory procedures.

The second edition was published in 1970, and presented an expanded work of terms and codes to designate diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in surgery, medicine, and the specialties. At that time, five-digit coding was introduced, replacing the former four-digit classification.

Another significant change was a listing of procedures relating to internal medicine. In the mid- to late1970s, the third and fourth editions of the CPT code were introduced.

The fourth edition, published in 1977, represented significant updates in medical technology, and a procedure of periodic updating was introduced to keep pace with the rapidly changing medical environment.

In 1983, the CPT code was adopted as part of the Health Care Financing Administration's (HCFA) Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS).

CPT is a registered of the American Medical Association.
Sue Littleton, Medical Coder