The benefits of attending a 2014 ACS Surgical Coding Workshop

Editor’s note: This column is an updated version of an article that was published in the March 2013 Bulletin. This revised column was prepared by the Regulatory and Quality staff in the ACS Division of Advocacy and Health Policy.

Each year the American College of Surgeons (ACS) hosts a series of two-day workshops on the application of changes to the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)* code set with an emphasis on codes that general surgeons commonly use. Instructors from the practice management consulting firm KarenZupko & Associates deliver practical explanations for each change, using real case examples and educational materials developed by the American Medical Association (AMA).

Who should attend an ACS Surgical Coding Workshop?

Surgeons, administrators, managers, coders, and reimbursement staff all report benefitting from the workshops. Team attendance is strongly encouraged to ensure accurate, complete, and consistent coding. Registration discounts are offered when three or more team members are enrolled at the same time. Moreover, if the physician is an ACS member, team members or practice employees may attend the workshop at the ACS member rate.

How often does coding change? Should I plan to attend a workshop each year?

Codes change frequently. In fact, the AMA updates the CPT code set annually. Moreover, improvements in coding constructs, additions of new technology, and changes to coding and reimbursement rules and payment policies make it necessary to attend a workshop annually.

What are the advantages of attending an ACS Surgical Coding Workshop?

When accurate coding is aligned with a clear understanding of payment policy rules, practices will begin to improve profit margins. Attending an ACS coding workshop increases participants’ knowledge of coding principles and helps them develop the skills needed to decrease coding errors and reduce the risk of an audit. The workshop also comprises information regarding the new codes for the year and audit trends and allows participants to practice accurate coding.

Additionally, attendees have the opportunity to share their different coding and practice management ideas, knowledge, experiences, and backgrounds with the group. Attendees also learn how their colleagues are handling coding, billing, and practice management issues.

What will I learn?

The topics discussed at an ACS coding workshop change annually due to the addition, deletion, and revision of the CPT code set. However, the focus of the first day of the workshop is on how to code correctly. Topics may include coding accurately for evaluation and management (E/M) services, reducing the risk of an audit, and new Medicare rules, regulations, and policies. These topics are addressed with an emphasis on their effects on surgical practices. Additionally, the instructors discuss how to appropriately apply coding and modifier guidelines to accurately report multiple procedure combinations. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, Electronic Health Record, Electronic Prescribing Incentive Programs, and the Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier, all of which are updated annually, also are addressed.

The second day of the workshop is dedicated to surgical case coding. The instructor discusses the information that should be included in an operative note if a surgeon is seeking reimbursement for an operation performed with an assistant or co-surgeon. Other topics discussed include:

  • Coding for excisional breast biopsy or partial mastectomy
  • Coding for component separation release
  • When and how to report E/M services for major and minor procedures, especially trauma
  • The use of modifier 58 in wound care, lesion excision, and breast and colon surgery
  • Services included in the global surgical package
  • The difference between returning a patient to the operating room to treat a surgical complication and a staged procedure
  • Procedures correctly documented and reported that are unrelated
  • to surgeries done previously in
  • the global period
  • How to initiate a successful appeal when paid incorrectly

Can I earn CME for attending a workshop?

Physician attendees are eligible to receive continuing medical education (CME) credits through the ACS. Physicians are eligible for 6.5 CME credits for each day of attendance. In addition, nonphysician attendees who are members of the American Academy of Professional Coders are eligible for 6.5 continuing education units for each day of attendance.

When and where will the 2014 ACS Surgical Coding Workshops take place?

  • February 6–7, Las Vegas, NV
  • April 10–11, Chicago, IL
  • May 15–16, Washington, DC
  • August 21–22, Nashville, TN

The dates and location change each year; visit the ACS practice management Web page for the most current dates and locations.

New in 2014, the ACS is offering a one-day Comprehensive Breast Coding Workshop, which will be presented February 21 in Orlando, FL. The workshop will provide instruction on how to incorporate the 2014 CPT breast biopsy and imaging coding changes, identify required documentation to accurately incorporate ICD-10 verbiage into office notes and pre- and postoperative diagnosis in operative notes, use appropriate modifiers to ensure accurate claim submission, and more.

How do I register?

The ACS offers a special price for members and their coding staffs. ACS Fellows and their staff should be sure to have their ACS member number available and enter it for each person registering. ACS membership is not a requirement for attendance. Register for the two-day workshop online or call 312-642-8310.

For hotel reservations, contact the hotel that is hosting the workshop using the number provided during the registration process, and then indicate that you are attending the ACS Surgical Coding Workshop for special pricing.

The ACS also offers special airfare discounts on United. Contact an ACS Travel Counselor at 800-456-4147 or, or contact United Airlines by phone at 800-521-4041 or online at When booking individual travel, be sure to indicate the name of the meeting and refer to the ACS file numbers provided for any applicable discounts.

Additional ACS coding resources

To assist surgeons in their efforts to address coding questions, the ACS also offers the following resources:

  • The Coding Hotline (1-800-227-7911), hours of operation 7:00 am–4:00 pm Mountain Time. The Coding Hotline staff will answer five free coding questions a year for each Fellow of the ACS. For additional information on the ACS Coding Hotline, visit
  • Coding and Practice Management Corner (previously Socioeconomic Tips), a column in the Bulletin, provides tips on a range of reimbursement-related issues. The topics change monthly and in past years have included coding for hernia and other complex abdominal repairs, debridement, and sentinel lymph node mapping and its relation to biopsy. These and other articles are available at


Editor’s note
Accurate coding is the responsibility of the provider. This article is intended only as a resource to assist in the billing process.

*All specific references to CPT codes and descriptions are © 2013 American Medical Association. All rights reserved. CPT and CodeManager are registered trademarks of the American Medical Association.

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