Sunday, August 25, 2013

Retrospective Part Seven

So I had the knowledge, now it was time to take it home and teach the non-human primates how to interpret the proper echocardiogram.  What I am referring to is my quest to teach the steadfast, un-yielding cardiologists how to interpret an echo with more information than a cardiac catheterization (at the time).  Folk's these were the days that cardiologist raped the insurance companies for billions of dollars doing "Diagnostic" cardiac coronary arteriography.  The interventional stuff was nascent, and still in clinical trials.

I managed to get them all in a room at one of the "Big" hospitals in Tyler Texas.  After they grazed on donuts, coffee, and bagels with onions, lox, and sour cream I sat them down and gave the first persuasive lecture of my life.  This lecture painted the picture my life would follow many years down the road as a teacher.

I had made a video of an echocardiogram on VHS tape that presented both 2-D, M-Mode, Pulse, CW Doppler, and Color Flow Doppler.  In the thirty minutes I was granted, I presented basic color flow interpretation, and the correlation with standard PW and CW Doppler.  I demonstrated mitral regurgitation, aortic insufficiency, and basic right heart imaging.  The right heart was not considered important at this time.  Everything I learned back in the early eighties had to do with systolic function.  The lecture and video were met with very polite applause. Then the leader of the dominant cardiology group unfolded himself.  This cardiologist who I will not name was a 6'8" tall person who was a kind and wonderful person.  His rising out of the chair was like a space shuttle taking off.  awesome!  He cleared his throat and said:  "Tom, Great presentation.  We all love this new technology.  Can we bill for it?"

I had a Butthead moment.  The owners of my business were in the crowd.  That was one thing WE as in myself and the owners of my business never looked into.  Medicare and private health insurance reimbursement for color-flow Doppler echocardiograms had no codes.  I stumbled for a response.  The cardiologist made a waving gesture and dismissed me saying we do not want to be liable for the color images unless there is a reimbursement in the package.  I had failed.  There was no CPT code for Color-Doppler echocardiograms.  It was too new.  My boss took me out for a drink at 9am.  To be continued......

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