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Preparing for the new medical 3D printing CPT codes: Part 1


The use of 3D printing in healthcare is a fast-growing trend.

In fact, the global 3D printing medical devices market is to grow more than 23% in the next five years, according to a report published by leading global technology research and advisory company, Technavio.

And technology analyst firm, Gartner predicts that 25% of surgeons will plan surgery using 3D printed models by 2021. Certainly, Radiology sits at the center of this growing use. As Nicole Wake, PhD, from NYU Langone Health told, "Being able to see and hold these tangible 3D models brings everything together.”

On July 1st, four new Category III CPT codes will become available for the use of medical 3D printed anatomical models in the USA. Our partner, Blackford Analysis is at the fore of delivering clinical value, and improving diagnostic confidence and patient outcomes within hospitals. Katie McKinley, our head of partnerships, recently caught up with Greg Kingston, marketing manager at Blackford Analysis to discuss the new codes and who they benefit.

Greg: So what are these new codes?

Katie: Category III CPT codes are used for new and emerging technologies. They are temporary codes, used to assess the new technology and allow the collection of data regarding its use. The data collected through the codes is used to support FDA approval processes or to substantiate widespread use of the new technology.

The criteria for 3D printing Category III CPT codes include:

  • A protocol for a study of procedures being performed
  • Support from specialties who would use the procedure
  • Availability of U.S. peer-reviewed literature
  • Descriptions of current trials outlining the efficacy of the procedure

Even though they are temporary, the Category III codes are still part of the broader CPT code set. This means that all healthcare payers must be able to accept them into their systems in compliance with HIPAA standards. The codes are collected for five years, during which time they are reviewed for potential inclusion as Category I codes.

List of CPT® Category III Codes Medium Descriptors:


Greg: Why are the new codes significant for radiologists and healthcare professionals?

Katie: The four new CPT codes will finally allow radiologists and other clinicians to seek reimbursement for 3D printing services. This is a key milestone on the journey towards widespread adoption of 3D printing in healthcare.

As medical 3D printing becomes more integrated within healthcare, radiology is well positioned to become the primary speciality to adopt the technology. Indeed, the subject has been spoken about extensively at most major radiology conferences, including RSNA.

Speaking about the codes to, Dr. Frank Rybicki, chair of radiology at the Ottawa Hospital, said, “Before now, all 3D printing was volunteer work, but now there's a way to actually get reimbursement from CMS for patients who need 3D printing. The fact that the codes exist and they cleared is huge. It's a really big deal in radiology.”

Based on its use in healthcare to date, 3D printing has already shown itself to be a highly collaborative technology. Involving radiologists but also a wide variety of clinicians from other specialties. If this level of engagement continues as 3D printing becomes more prevalent in hospitals, it will not only improve the quality of research into the discipline but will also ultimately improve patient care.

Next time…

In Part Two of this blog series, Greg and Katie discuss the importance of collecting data on patient benefit and what needs to be done to support the temporary codes’ transition into Category I CPT codes.

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Fully integrated with existing systems, the platform simplifies the deployment of imaging applications and AI algorithms, and eliminates performance degradation. New applications can easily be added to the image-processing platform, reducing implementation time, costs, and long-term maintenance. Book a demo of Blackford Platform here.

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