Published In

Journal of the American Board of Family Practice

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2001


Nosology -- Code numbers -- Study and teaching, Nosology -- Code numbers -- Evaluation, Nosology -- Code numbers -- Management


Background: Limited data are available on physicians’ accuracy in coding for their services. The purpose of this study was to determine the current procedural terminology (CPT) evaluation and management coding accuracy of family physicians and define demographic variables associated with coding accuracy.

Methods: Six hundred randomly selected active members of the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians were sent six hypothetical progress notes of office visits along with a demographic survey. The study group assigned CPT evaluation and management codes to each of the progress notes and completed the demographic survey. Five expert coders also assigned codes to each of the cases. The accuracy of family physicians in determining CPT E/M codes was determined relative to that of expert coders.

Results: Family physicians agreed with the experts’ CPT evaluation and management codes for 52% of established patient progress notes, the most common error being undercoding. In contrast, for new patient progress notes, family physicians agreed with the experts only 17% of the time, the predominant error being overcoding. No surveyed demographic variable was associated with coding accuracy.

Conclusions: The error rate for physician CPT coding is substantial and occurs more commonly with new patients. The complexity of the CPT coding guidelines, along with limited physician training in CPT coding, likely account for these results.


Originally appeared in Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, vol. 14, no. 3, pages 184-192, published by the American Board of Family Medicine. May be found at

Dr Lipsky was affiliated with Health Strategies and Solutions, Philadelphia PA, at the time of writing.

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