ACS and other specialty surgical organizations release Physicians as Assistants at Surgery report

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) and 15 other specialty surgical organizations have jointly compiled and released the seventh edition of Physicians as Assistants at Surgery, a report that provides guidance on how often an operation might require the use of a physician as an assistant. This report reflects the most recent clinical practices, and often serves as a resource for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other payors.

The following organizations
participated in the report:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons
  • American College of Surgeons
  • American Pediatric Surgical Association
  • American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • American Society of Transplant Surgeons
  • American Urological Association
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeons
  • Society for Surgical Oncology
  • Society for Vascular Surgery
  • Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons
  • The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

Using the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes from the 2012 and 2013 coding manuals, each participating organization reviewed codes applicable to their specialty that are classified as “Surgery” in CPT. CPT is the most frequently used physician medical nomenclature for reporting medical services and procedures to private and public health insurance payors. Participants indicated the frequency of an operation requiring the use of a physician as an assistant at surgery: (1) almost always; (2) almost never; or (3) some of the time.

The newly released report adds 107 CPT codes that were introduced since the last report was issued in 2011. In addition, the report revises 74 codes that had been previously included. Historically, the report is conducted approximately every other year. However, to more accurately reflect new and updated CPT codes and to help improve the quality of care for the surgical patient, updates to the Physicians as Assistants at Surgery report now will be conducted annually, and a full review of all surgical CPT codes will be released every five years.

“The frequency of updating the report is becoming increasingly important,” said Mark Savarise, MD, FACS, ACS alternate advisor for the AMA CPT editorial panel. “Medicare and third-party payors are attracted to the report because it provides a comprehensive clinical review of surgical procedures to bring an informed opinion from surgeons in the field about the frequency with which a physician’s services as an assistant at surgery are needed.”

The College maintains that a physician who serves as an assistant in an operation should be a trained individual who can participate in and actively assist the surgeon in completing the operation safely. When a surgeon is unavailable to serve as an assistant, a qualified surgical resident or other qualified health care professional, such as a registered nurse or a physician’s assistant with experience in assisting during a procedure, may be used, according to the ACS Statements on Principles.

Download the entire Physicians as Assistants at Surgery report.

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