Screening and Brief Intervention Billing Codes for Physicians

Screening for a drug or alcohol problem in the doctor’s office seems like a logical and appropriate thing to do. However, only 8.7% of problem drinkers report receiving such screening or advice from their doctors. Physicians now have an incentive to do Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) because this service is now billable:

  • American Medical Association created codes 99408 (15-30 minutes) and 99409 (over 30 minutes interaction) for alcohol and/or substance use structured screening and brief intervention services
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services created codes G0396 and G0397 for reporting comparable services for Medicare fee-for-service schedule (FFS) patients.

So what is a brief intervention? For alcohol, one example would be to use the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) one question:

How many times in the past year have you had 5 or more drinks in a day (men); 4 or more drinks in a day (women)?

To determine if there needs to be some sort of intervention, the following must be kept in mind:

  • One standard drink = 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits
  • Drinking limits for healthy women to age 65 = no more than 3 drinks in a day AND no more than 7 drinks in a week
  • Drinking limits for healthy men to age 65 = no more than 4 drinks in a day AND no more than 14 drinks in a week

The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 21.1 million people needed, but did not receive, treatment for illicit drug or alcohol use. 95.5% felt they did not need treatment. A brief talk with their doctor may be enough to change their mind (and their lives).

Source: TIPS & TOPICS from David Mee-Lee, M.D., Volume 6, No.1, April 2008

More info on screening:
Screening for alcohol use and alcohol related problems (NIAAA)
Many Health Plans Will Now Pay for Substance Use Screening and Brief Intervention
Simple steps can help curb opiate misuse in doctor’s offices, study shows
Advice from Addicted Women to Nurses, Doctors, Medical Staff
Screening for Problem Drinking at the Doctor’s Office Saves Money
Online Alcohol Screening Tools Help Employers Save Money

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