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Effective Jan. 1, 2012, the physician payment policy in the United States for Ventricular Assist Device removal procedures will change. Payment values will be reduced and no longer include reimbursement for in-hospital and out-patient evaluation and management services. Payments could be reduced dramatically - up to 30 percent - unless you prepare for this change.

If you do VAD procedures, you are providing a substantial amount of critical care as well as in-patient and out-patient care, which are currently reimbursed automatically. After Jan. 1, 2012, however, those services must be processed in an itemized fashion for each patient. Accurate documentation of services provided requires surgical insight and is the surgeon's responsibility, and accurate documentation is critical for correct coding and ultimately correct reimbursement. Interested individuals should contact The Society of Thoracic Surgeons for more information about these changes.

ISHLT is planning to conduct an educational session at the Annual Meeting in April in Prague regarding these changes as well as device-related payment issues in other countries. Look for more information on this session in early 2012.

Photo credit: Dmitry Bodrov, Prague At Sunset,