Q: We perform sleep and polysomnography studies, which are frequently interrupted because the patient repeatedly stops breathing and we need to implement continuous positive airway pressure therapy. Until now, we didn't think we could bill for those interrupted studies, but we were recently told it is appropriate to do so. How do we proceed?
A: There are actually two proper ways to report the service, according to Current Procedural Terminology. The first is to report the appropriate code from the 95803-95811 range with the modifier –52 for reduced services. The second is to report the appropriate code with the modifier –53 for discontinued services.
The modifier selection would be determined by the amount of data collected during the study. If there is sufficient data to form a diagnostic opinion, –52 would seem the appropriate choice. If there is insufficient data, modifier –53 would be appropriate. However, it is a decision that should be made by the physician. As you know, CPT definition does not guarantee coverage by the insurer.
Occasionally a patient comes in for a diagnostic polysomnogram (95810) and due to the severity of the sleep apnea, CPAP is applied (while continuing polysomnographic monitoring). Sometimes patients are scheduled for split-night studies, in which for the first several hours diagnostic polysomnography is performed, and if there appears to be significant sleep apnea, cpap is applied for the rest of the night with continued polysomnographic monitoring. In both of these situations, the correct CPT billing code to use is (95811), the code for a CPAP titration study.
I am not too familiar with the -53 modifier. I use the -52 modifier when a study is terminated prior to 6 hours of recording time. I do plan to look more into the difference between the -52 and -53 modifiers.
On a broader note, this answer in Medical Economics-written by a non-physician- illustrates that the field of Medicine needs physicians with legal and business experience, and perhaps dual degrees (MD/JD and MD/MBA). Non-physicians often have difficulties truly understanding what what is involved in a medical business. For example, sleep labs organized as Independent Diagnostic and Testing Facilities (IDTF's) that have physician ownership or part ownership are limited in the number of referrals that can come from the physician. Say, for example, that an IDTF with a physician owner and several non-physician owners is told by their lawyer that only 40% of the sleep studies can be ordered/referred by the physician owner. Seems simple enough. However, how do you count a cpap titration? If a Primary care doc orders the psg, it shows sleep apnea, the sleep doc - who is a part owner of the IDTF- sees the patient and arranges for the titration study, who is considered to be the referring doc for the cpap titration? Does it make any difference if the original order form signed by the primary care doc has a pre-printed line next to the order for the polysomnogram indicating that a cpap titration will be performed if clinically appropriate? In my experience, many lawyers have difficulties understanding the process by which a patient initially presents with symptoms of OSA and, after seeing several doctors and going through several sleep studies, eventually receives a cpap machine. I think that part of the problem is that Federal regulations are unclear on the matter. We probably need more doctors in government, too.