Voluntary Modifier for Advanced Diagnostic Imaging

on Monday, 19 March 2018. All News Items | Outpatient Services | Billing

Working Together and Planning Ahead

January 1, 2020 – that is the date currently planned for full implementation of the required consultation of Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) for ordering advanced diagnostic imaging services and the required claim reporting of such. Though that seems a long time away, Medicare is making first steps towards this implementation. And once here, the process will require coordination of several providers, so planning ahead is a good idea for all involved. 2020 will be here before you know it.

This new program was established by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) of 2014, to ensure advanced diagnostic imaging services are being ordered appropriately.  The program will require ordering physicians/practitioners to consult appropriate use criteria (AUC) through a qualified electronic portal (known as a Clinical Decision Support Mechanism (CDSM)) prior to ordering advanced imaging services. The CDSM lets the ordering professional know whether the order adheres, or does not adhere, to AUC, or if there is no AUC applicable. The final part of the requirement is that the furnishing professional (e.g. the radiologist) and the performing facility must report consultation information on their respective claims.  Per CMS, “Ultimately, this program will result in identified outlier ordering professionals being subject to prior authorization.”

The program applies to advanced imaging services –

  • Specifically, computerized tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), nuclear medicine (NM), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • Furnished in physician offices, hospital outpatient departments (including emergency departments), ambulatory surgical centers, and any other outpatient setting determined appropriate in the future; and
  • Paid under the physician fee schedule (PFS), the hospital outpatient prospective payment system(OPPS), or the ambulatory surgical center payment system.

There are exceptions to the requirements for ordering professionals with significant hardships, patients with emergency medical conditions, and inpatients paid under Part A.

MLN Matters MM10481 announces a new modifier for voluntary reporting. “Effective July 1, 2018, HCPCS modifier QQ (Ordering Professional Consulted A Qualified Clinical Decision Support Mechanism For This Service And The Related Data Was Provided To The Furnishing Professional) is available for this reporting. The modifier may be:

  • Used when the furnishing professional is aware of the result of the ordering professional’s consultation with a CDSM for that patient,
  • Reported on the same claim line as the CPT code for an advanced diagnostic imaging service furnished in an applicable setting and paid for under an applicable payment system, and,
  • Reported on both the facility and professional claim.”

CMS has not yet provided detailed claim-reporting instructions for the future beyond the voluntary reporting of the QQ modifier.  CMS indicates the ordering practitioner’s National Provider Identifier (NPI) and the specific CDSM consulted will have to be reported once the program is fully implemented. CMS will publish claim instructions prior to any additional reporting requirements. The MLN article includes a list of applicable CPT codes, though for now the modifier may be used on codes outside the specified ranges. The new modifier is voluntary and Medicare will continue to pay for advanced imaging services with or without the modifier.

CMS has a website about the Appropriate Use Criteria program with more information.  The website includes a definition of AUC as “criteria that are evidence-based (to the extent feasible) and assist professionals who order and furnish applicable imaging services to make the most appropriate treatment decisions for a specific clinical condition.”  The website also includes a list of qualified CDSMs and priority clinical areas.

Appropriate consultation and claim reporting will require coordination between the ordering professional, the furnishing physician (radiologist) and the facility providing the service. For example, how will the ordering physician convey to the performing facility and furnishing physician that he/she has consulted a CDSM, which CDSM was consulted, and what the results were? How will the facility and furnishing physician get modifiers and other required information on the claim? A lot to consider and plan – 2020 will be here before you know it.

Article by Debbie Rubio

Debbie Rubio, BS, MT (ASCP), is the Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Medical Management Plus, Inc.  Debbie has over twenty-seven years of experience in healthcare including nine years as the Clinical Compliance Coordinator at a large multi-facility health system.  In her current position, Debbie monitors, interprets and communicates current and upcoming regulatory and compliance issues as they relate to specific entities concerning Medicare and other payers.  You may contact Debbie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice.  Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.

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