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Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) is a code that is maintained by the American Medical Association that describes every procedure or service including diagnosis that may be provided to a patient by a medical officer. The code is alphanumeric and contains five characters. A CPT code does not contain decimal points. The Current Procedural Terminology was originally published by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 1966 to standardize terminology among medical practitioners, ease record keeping and provide basic actuarial data. Originally the code had only four digits and was mainly concerned with surgery with limited sections on medicine. The second edition in 1970 was a major shift from the first in that it listed codes relating to internal medicine and had five digits. The third and fourth editions were published in the mid seventies with the fourth being presented in 1977.

Current Procedural Terminologies are used by medical practitioners when billing patients for procedures and services rendered to indicate the nature of services given. When a doctor caries out a procedure on a patient he or she indicates the CPT code for that services on the bill to the insurance company. For example if a doctor gives the patient a flu shot he will indicate the corresponding CPT code on that patient’s bill. This ensures consistency and uniformity in terms of billing since all doctors will use the same code for similar procedures. CPT is also used to review medical care given as well as processing of medical insurance claims. The uniformity of CPT has made it an indispensable tool in medical research and training. This is because it is reliable in Insert surname here 3 comparing medical data. Examples of CPT codes include: CPT code 76091 which is the code for a bilateral mammography, flu shot which is indicated as CPT code 90658, CPT code 22558 which is the code for an anterior interbody lumbar fusion, chicken pox vaccine that is represented by the CPT code 90716 and CPT code 99396 which is used to represent a physical check up among other codes used for various procedures.

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At times a procedure may be unique or the manner in which it has been carried out is not as described in a particular code. In such a case a modifier is used. A modifier exists to shed light on the intention of the practitioner. It is a two digit code attached to a CPT code that describes the deviation. Examples of modifiers include: modifier -59 that identifies two similar procedures  carried out on the same patient within a reasonably short time, modifier -51, modifier -52 that illustrates reduction in service,  modifier -22 and modifier -53 that is a payment modifier.

In conclusion CPT codes are a useful tool not only in aiding documentation of medical services and procedures but also in billing of medical services especially by insurance companies. As such the development of CPT codes should change with the times and adapt to technological advances so as to cater for procedures that outside the scope of traditional services. This will ensure that patients are able to get the best available services and at the same time maintain the integrity of the insurance system without compromising either. CPT codes should play a leading role in the diversification of health services.

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