AMA releases vaccine-specific COVID-19 Current Procedural Terminology codes

With news of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, the American Medical Association announced updates to its Current Procedural Terminology codes. Four new CPT terms for specific coronavirus vaccines were released on Monday in anticipation of a possible FDA vaccine approval.
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Current Procedural Terminology

On Tuesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced that it had updated its Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) with codes to support two specific versions of a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

The CPT Editorial Panel approved the addition of four new CPT terms, which are not yet effective. The codes in the informational release are specific to two promising emerging vaccines. Each vaccine has its own identifying code, as well as a secondary, administrative code. The addition of the secondary code is important, because it provides granular information about the actual administration of the vaccine, including dose number.

“Correlating each coronavirus vaccine with its own unique CPT code provides analytical advantages to help track, allocate, and optimize resources as an immunization program ramps up in the United States,” said Susan R. Bailey, M.D., President of the AMA, in a written release.

Tracking a vaccine’s dose is a new level of specificity within CPT terms. The CPT Editorial Panel worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid to include the details in order to better track vaccine administration. Without the secondary code, for example, a patient who received the vaccine for free may not be captured in reporting data, leading to incorrect information about nationwide distribution.

The CPT codes were released for informational purposes in advance of a vaccine being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the AMA, because health systems need sufficient time to integrate the clinical terminology into their EHR systems before they begin administering it to patients. But, even though the codes have been announced, they will only become effective when the FDA formally approves each vaccine for clinical use.

The new codes represent an important next step in the race to develop and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19. For more on how to administer a vaccine across the nation – and the hurdles we may encounter – download IMO’s whitepaper: Traveling at the speed of light: Health IT’s role in administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

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