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Code Maintenance Committee encourages public input, collaborative discussion

April 01, 2013

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

Hands up: Members of the Code Maintenance Committee vote at the meeting, which was held Feb. 28-March 1 at ADA Headquarters in Chicago.

Listening environment: Dr. Andrew Vorrasi, chair of the Council on Dental Benefit Programs Subcommittee on the Code, listens to public comments at the Code Maintenance Committee meeting.
Two days and 90 change requests later mean that CDT 2014 will more than ever before incorporate contributions from all sectors of the dental community.

That's the sentiment members of the Code Maintenance Committee walked away with after the group's meeting Feb. 28-March 1 at ADA Headquarters in Chicago. The 16 CMC member organization representatives began the meeting by encouraging observers to comment on the requests for change to the Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature. The observers were then invited to stay as the CMC discussed and voted on the requests.

The committee's goal, set by the Council on Dental Benefit Programs, is to foster a collaborative environment where representatives with differing interests in dentistry can come together to develop and maintain the CDT Code. Because of the CMC's broad representation, the conversation and vote is even more inclusive than in recent years.

“This process really benefits ADA members,” said Dr. Andrew Vorrasi, chair of CDBP's Subcommittee on the Code. “They're getting a better vetted product than perhaps they were before. It's more productive having this kind of atmosphere.”

Other stakeholders in the process agree with Dr. Vorrasi's assessment that since the ADA launched a new process for maintaining the CDT Code in 2012, the discussions have been more positive, friendly and productive. The CMC comprises representatives from the ADA, third-party payers, specialty and general dentistry organizations, and dental education.

“The most recent CMC meeting was an open, informative process, which provided opportunities for public input, professional collaboration and consensus, all with the ultimate goal of maintaining a HIPAA-compliant code set,” said Dr. Charles Stewart, regional dental director for Aetna Dental and chair of the National Association of Dental Plans' CDT Workgroup.

Observe and record: Tanya Dunlap, program development director at Perio Protect, comments on a Code change request. Ms. Dunlap was one of 15 people who observed the meeting.
Fifteen people came to participate in the public forum and to observe the CMC's decision-making process. The observers and commenters represented the American Society of Dental Anesthesiologists, Dr. Charles Blair & Associates, Pacific Dental Services, Perio Protect LLC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. Several participants spoke in favor or against certain change requests, and several people also took advantage of an option to call into the meeting to listen to the proceedings.

“I think there is a general sense among the specialists that we are now actually involved in the CDT Code decision-making process,” said Dr. Norman Nagel of the American Association of Orthodontists. “Before, the discussions seemed more confrontational or, at best, not very collegial. Now, we all seem to work in an atmosphere that promotes consideration for all viewpoints. The discussion seems more upbeat and consensus seems to be reached rather easily. I, for one, am truly excited at the positive evolution of the maintenance process. Kudos to the ADA for taking this bold but positive step.”

The purpose of the CDT Code is to achieve uniformity, consistency and specificity in accurately reporting dental treatment by dentists. One use of the CDT Code is to provide for the efficient processing of dental claims and another is to populate an Electronic Health Record. In federal regulations published under authority of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the CDT Code is named as the sole standard for reporting dental procedures on electronic claims and the ADA is recognized as the owner responsible for its annual review and maintenance.

A draft summary of the actions taken at the meeting can be found online at Code on Dental Procedures and Nomenclature (CDT). The final action report will be posted on the website soon and accepted changes will be incorporated in the 2014 version of the CDT Code.

The ADA plans to hold a forum on the CDT Code at the Annual Session in New Orleans Oct. 31-Nov. 3.