What Are Path and Lab Panels in Medical Coding?

Jenna, a Blitz customer asked, “I seem to freeze on the CPC board exam on the Path and Lab section. Most of my confusion is with panels. I get thrown off as I seem to take too much time. Clearly, I need to know something? What it is I don’t know?”

Medical Coding — Path and Lab Panels

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The panels are a group of tests that are routinely done together and it’s more of a space saving time convention.

This is just a scan of my Pathology and Lab section and what you’ll see here is like 80047. It’s a basic metabolic panel. And this, what I have bracketed here, these 8 tests are bundled into this code, 80047. So rather than on a claim form write out all of these 8 different CPT codes, we just write out the one, 80047. And I just put 8 just so you know, indicate okay, there’s 8 tests bundled into 80047.

Now the physicians are not required to… when they want a basic metabolic panel to use all 8 of these tests. Maybe they’ll only want 7 of them. That’s fine. Then they would bill the 7 out individually. But if they did do all 8 then you’re required to bill the panel and not bill them separately, okay?

And then it gets really interesting if you look at A0050. This is a general health panel and it’s a panel that includes another panel. And that’s why even though it looks short, it actually is 17 tests when you add it up because it includes a comprehensive metabolic panel which is A0053. It includes these two blood count-type procedures and it could be this type or that type so it can get a little complicated. And then finally, the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. So that’s like 17 tests in one.

Now if you’re focusing on this for a board exam question, what you’ll want to do is typically, you’ll see one answer that will have just the one code, the panel code. And then you’ll see another one that might have like 7 or 9 tests listed out. What I recommend is use your pencil, go to the panel, start reading the scenario and start lightly crossing off the ones that are listed. And if you have all 8 and that’s it then you know you need to use a panel code. If you’re missing one then you need to bill out… you need to pick the answer with the 7 that are listed. And if you have 9 then you bill the panel code and then the one left over test so you’ll have 2 codes, okay?

Was there anything else that you wanted to add on this one, Alicia?

Alicia: Yes, I did want to add that I just… I had taken a certification exam as well and even though we don’t discuss exam questions the highlight of the question was which 3 panels included glucose, potassium, and sodium? And so it gave you 4 choices and there was one that didn’t. And you know, when you have it highlighted or bubbled like this, it would be real easy to pick those… pick that out. I actually put all the glucose in pink, potassium in yellow and sodium in orange in my manual just so I can quickly reference which ones had the three.

(15.19) So here’s Path and Lab question on Reproductive Medicine.

Alicia: Is that the one we thought was a joke in the first.

Laureen: Oh this is the sperm… oh yeah, the sperm one. Alright, explain how to code when the question talks about going to a sperm facility for 3 days and it’s being frozen. Can you use units like times 3, times 4, etc.. or should you use one code for the entire time you went in to give your sperm to the sperm bank?

Alright so I went to find the code and I looked up 89343. And findacode.com is a site that we promote because I use it all the time. And for our members, if you go there and sign up and you use the coupon code CCO for codingcertfication.org, you will get $60 off a year. So I encourage you to do that when you’re ready to start using online coding manuals.

And so part of what they have is this plain English description which is really cool and it just talked about you know, what’s actually being done with these types of procedures. Also, within it, I could go to the CPT assistance and found that it said the following codes are for storage of each identified item. And in that list was the 89343. So the conclusion is that if they’re frozen and stored each time they’re donated then there would be 3 codes. So… and that’s kind of how you can be like a resourceful coder and kind of go in and do a little research. CPT® Assistant is like the helper magazine to the CPT® manual. It does cost to get access to it but if you sign up for Find The Code and you do the upgrade to get CPT  Assistant, once you get certified, you’ll find it very, very useful for real world coding questions like this.

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