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| 1 minute read

Reporting COVID-19 patient images to ACR data registries as a strategy to avoid Medicare payment cuts

The American College of Radiology (ACR) has announced that radiology group practices and radiologists can now claim Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) “Improvement Activity” (IA) credits for contributing COVID-related data and images to ACR data registries. 

Earning a certain number of MIPS credits during a performance year enables physicians and their practices to avoid downward annual payment adjustments under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule; in fact, physicians and their practices could even potentially receive upward adjustments for their services paid under the schedule. MIPS credits are available in several categories. For the 2021 performance year, physicians need to earn 40 points in the MIPS IA category to get full credit in that category.

In 2020, the ACR created the COVID-19 Imaging Research Registry (CIRR), an observational data registry of imaging studies from hospitalized patients, as well as individuals treated on an outpatient basis, who were tested for COVID-19. The registry is comprised of data for patients tested for COVID submitted by radiologists practicing in the United States. The data include demographic information, clinical data on signs and symptoms at the time of presentation, and outcomes. These data are extracted from the electronic health records (EHRs) and imaging picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) submitted from contributing medical centers. CIRR is a primary data collector for the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering-funded Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center, which may become the world’s largest COVID-19 imaging archive, according to the ACR.

Chest CT images performed on COVID-positive patients can also be submitted to the ACR Lung Cancer Screening Registry (LCSR), which is also approved to enable providers to meet quality reporting requirements for receiving Medicare CT lung cancer screening payment. 

By reporting cases to these registries, ACR states that individual MIPS participating radiologists or radiology group practices who are considered “non-patient facing” under the payment rules can earn the required 40 IA credits. 

Kudos to ACR for having such a data registry. Aggregating COVID imaging case data across this country has undoubtedly already contributed to improved diagnosis and treatment of these patients. Having this data reporting facilitate meeting MIPS payment requirements is an added bonus.

CIRR participation enables radiologists and practices that have never taken part in research to help move patient care forward, aid health equity efforts, and strengthen their practice by satisfying an increasing number of MIPS requirements.


health care & life sciences, covid-19, data registries, mips, medicare payment