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Payment changes drive hysteroscopy to the office


The benefits of integrating hysteroscopy into office practice have been compelling for some time. An in-office approach is patient centered, more efficient, and clinically valuable. It also has had the potential to be economically valuable for practices that are able to perform a mix of diagnostic and therapeutic/operative hysteroscopies.

Dramatic shifts within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services fee schedule in 2017 – and commensurate changes in the private insurance market – have now ramped up this value, making it all the more important that physicians consider investing in equipment and adopting an in-office approach.

Dr. Aarathi Cholkeri-Singh is at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and is director of gynecologic surgical education and associate director of minimally invasive gynecology at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

Dr. Aarathi Cholkeri-Singh

At the crux of this shift has been a 237% increase, effective at the start of 2017, in the physician office payment for hysteroscopic endometrial biopsy and/or polypectomy (CPT code 58558). According to national payment amounts, performing this procedure in the office earned an average of $1,382.07 in 2017, compared with $409.60 in 2016. This reimbursement will hold steady in the 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule published in November.

Central to this increase, in turn, is a significant increase in practice expense reimbursement. CMS has included the costs of equipment, including the costs of the hysteroscopic fluid management system and the hysteroscopic tissue resection system, in recalibrating the practice expense relative value unit. Clearly, physicians are being encouraged to move hysteroscopic procedures into the office.

Weighing an investment

In the Medicare resource-based relative value scale payment system, relative value units (RVUs) are calculated based on three elements: physician work, practice expenses, and malpractice cost. Each component is multiplied by a factor that accounts for geographic cost variations, and each total RVU is multiplied by a dollar amount known as the conversion factor.

This isn’t the first year that the payment system – a standard for many other payers in determining compensation – allows for higher reimbursement for some hysteroscopic procedures performed in the office. The practice expense relative units have been higher for some time for certain hysteroscopic procedures – such as diagnostic hysteroscopy (code 58555), removal of a foreign body (58562), endometrial ablation (58353), and biopsy/polypectomy (58558) – when these procedures are performed in the office, compared with the hospital or an ambulatory surgical center.

However, the new increase in physician office payment for 58558 changes the equation significantly and ensures a better return on investment. In 2017, CMS offered a 12% increase in the facility fee paid to hospitals and a 2% increase in the facility fee paid to outpatient surgery centers when a hysteroscopic biopsy/polypectomy is performed in these settings, but the physician reimbursement in these cases declined 11%-19%.

On the flip side, an in-office approach to hysteroscopic biopsy/polypectomy has been rewarded in 2017 through a significantly higher practice expense RVU and a “non-facility” total RVU of 38.51 – a 237% increase over the 2016 practice expense RVU of 11.4. Such dramatic differences between the practice RVUs – and total RVUs – for in-office and out-of-office hysteroscopic procedures will continue for 2018.

Private insurers are following suit, and some are increasing their reimbursement even more. As of June 2017 in metropolitan Chicago, Blue Cross Blue Shield has been reimbursing in-office hysteroscopic biopsy/polypectomy at approximately $2,424.00; prior to June, the allowable charge was $742.81.

Equipment costs for in-office hysteroscopy can range from $15,000 to $35,000, based on whether equipment is new or used, the number of trays, and the style of camera and monitor system. Ancillary equipment/disposables cost $10 or less, and $40-$50 or less for diagnostic and many operative procedures, respectively. The prices for handpiece mechanical resection disposables or tissue removal devices vary based on company and blade type, so these costs will need to be accounted for if such equipment is incorporated. Again, the CMS increase in reimbursement for offices accommodates for the inclusion of these disposables as well as fluid management disposable costs.

If diagnostic hysteroscopy (as a separate procedure) is the procedure that you perform most often, the investment will look less favorable. However, if you anticipate performing hysteroscopic biopsies and/or polypectomies as well, the investment will look significantly more favorable now than it has in past years.

Once you have established your in-office system, even those procedures that are weighted equally for the practice setting (non-facility) and hospital/surgery center setting, such as hysteroscopic lysis of adhesions (58559), can be easily incorporated from a financial point of view.

In addition to reimbursement levels, it’s important to consider the efficiencies of in-office hysteroscopy. The setup is relatively simple and requires a dedicated exam room, not a surgical suite. You can perform one or two annual exams while the assistant sets up the room and greets each patient, for instance, or see another established patient while the assistant discharges your patient and turns the room over. Hysteroscopy at the hospital, or even at an ambulatory surgical center, involves time driving, changing, and waiting for anesthesia.

For our patients, most importantly, an in-office approach offers less out-of-pocket expense (deductibles), less time away from family/work, avoidance of general anesthesia/intubation, and greater patient comfort from being within a familiar environment. For diagnostic procedures, the patient can be in and out in less than 30 minutes, and for operative procedures, she can be in and out in 1-2 hours, compared with more than 4 hours at the hospital.


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