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AMA releases 2021 CPT codes


This is the first major overhaul in 25 years.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has released the CPT code set for 2021 bringing the first major overhaul to the codes and guidelines for office and other outpatient evaluation and management services (E/M) in 25 years.

According to a news release from the association, the foundational changes are aimed at making E/M office visit coding and documentation simpler and more flexible. This move should free physicians and their teams from administrative burden which has led to time-wasting note bloat and box checking.

The changes to CPT codes from 99201 to 99215 are proposed for adoption on Jan. 1, 2021, and include:

  • Eliminating history and physical exam as elements for code selection.
  • Allowing physicians to choose the best patient care by permitting code level selection based on medical decision-making (MDM) or total time.
  • Promoting payer consistency with more detail added to CPT code descriptors and guidelines.

“To get the full benefit of the burden relief from the E/M office visit changes, health care organizations need to understand and be ready to use the revised CPT codes and guidelines by Jan. 1, 2021,” AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, says in the release. “The AMA is helping physicians and health care organizations prepare now for the transition and offers authoritative resources to anticipate the operational, infrastructural and administrative workflow adjustments that will result from the pending transition.”

Among the additions to the CPT code set are new medical testing services brought on by the public’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the release says.

The AMA has made more information on the code set available through a checklistvideosmodulesguidebooks, and other tools and resources to help transition to the revised E/M office visit codes and guidelines.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health