CAM 157

Medical Policy Development and Review

Category:Other   Last Reviewed:January 2021
Department(s):Medical Affairs   Next Review:January 2022
Original Date:January 2017    

Description
The purpose of a medical policy is to provide guidelines for determining coverage criteria for specific medical and behavioral health technologies, including procedures, equipment and services.  In order to be eligible for coverage, all services must be medically necessary (unless otherwise provided in the member's benefits contract).  To the extent there are any conflicts between medical policy guidelines and applicable contract language, the contract language takes precedent.  Medical policy is not intended to override the health insurance contract that defines the insured’s benefits, nor is it intended to dictate to providers how to practice medicine. Physicians and other health care providers are expected to exercise their medical judgment in providing the most appropriate care.

Policy Development
Selection of Technologies for Policy Development

Issues are selected for medical policy development through referrals from staff, physicians, provider communities and members.  Priority may be given to the following:

  • New diagnostic tests, therapeutic procedures or medical devices for which other good alternatives do not exist;
  • Medical technologies that may have a safety concern;
  • Medical technologies that are considered life-saving;
  • Medical technologies that are controversial with respect to their clinical utility;
  • Medical technologies that have generated a high level of interest; and
  • New information published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that may change the status of a technology from investigational to medically necessary.

Research Sources

The following sources are considered in the development and revision of medical policy:

  1. Technology assessments publically published and based on a systematic review of the evidence (e.g., BlueCross BlueShield Association, BlueCross BlueShield Center for Clinical Effectiveness, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality);
  2. Peer-reviewed publications;
  3. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines developed by national organizations and other recognized authorities;
  4. Generally accepted standards of medical practice;
  5. External practicing physician review; and
  6. Government approval status.

Definition of Medical Necessity

Medically necessary or medical necessity means health care services that a physician, exercising prudent clinical judgment, would provide to a patient for the purpose of preventing, evaluating, diagnosing or treating illness, injury, disease or its symptoms, and that are:

  1. In accordance with generally accepted standards of medical practice;
  2. Clinically appropriate, in terms of type, frequency, extent, site and duration and considered effective for the patient’s illness, injury or disease; and
  3. Not primarily for the convenience of the patient, physician or other health care provider, and not more costly than an alternative service or sequence of services at least as likely to produce equivalent therapeutic or diagnostic results as to the diagnosis or treatment of that patient’s illness, injury or disease.

Generally Accepted Standards of Medical Practice

Generally accepted standards of medical practice means standards that are based on credible scientific evidence published in peer-reviewed medical literature generally recognized by the relevant medical community, physician specialty society recommendations and the views of physicians practicing in relevant clinical areas and any other relevant factors.

Definition of Investigational Services

"Investigational" means that the medical technology does not meet the technology assessment criteria outlined below. If any of the criteria are not met, the technology is determined to be investigational. In addition, all services specifically associated with the  investigational technology, including, but not limited to, associated procedures, treatments, supplies, devices, equipment, facilities or drugs, will also be considered investigational.

Technology Assessment Process

The technology assessment process is applied to both the development of new medical policies and existing policies.  In order to determine whether a medical technology may be considered medically necessary, literature searches are conducted and the published scientific evidence related to each technology is reviewed against five technology assessment criteria. The technology is considered investigational if any one or more of the criteria below are not met.

  1. The technology must have final approval from the appropriate government regulatory bodies.
    • This criterion applies to drugs, biological products, devices and any other product or procedure that must have final approval to market from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or any other federal governmental body with authority to regulate the technology.
    • Any approval that is granted as an interim step (i.e., Treatment IND) in the FDA or any other federal governmental body’s regulatory process is not sufficient.
  2. The scientific evidence must permit conclusions concerning the effect of the technology on health outcomes.
    • The evidence should consist of well-designed and well-conducted investigations published in peer-reviewed journals. The quality of the body of studies and the consistency of the results are considered in evaluating the evidence.
    • The evidence should demonstrate that the technology can measure or alter the physiological changes related to a disease, injury, illness or condition. In addition, there should be evidence or a convincing argument based on established medical facts that such measurement or alteration affects the health outcomes.
    • Opinions and evaluations by national medical associations, consensus panels or other technology evaluation bodies are evaluated according to the scientific quality of the supporting evidence and rationale.
  3. The technology must improve the net health outcome.
  4. The technology’s beneficial effects on health outcomes should outweigh any harmful effects on health outcomes.
  5. The technology must be as beneficial as any established alternatives.
  6. The technology should improve the net health outcome as much as or more than established alternatives.
  7. The improvement must be attainable outside the investigational settings.
  8. When used under the usual conditions of medical practice, the technology should be reasonably expected to satisfy technology evaluation criteria #3 and #4.

In addition to the above criteria, the following additional criteria apply to new diagnostic technologies (e.g., imaging studies, laboratory procedures, home monitoring devices):

  1. Technical feasibility is demonstrated, including reproducibility and precision. For comparison among studies, a common standardized protocol for the new diagnostic technology is established.
  2. For accurate interpretation of study results, sensitivities, specificities and positive and negative predictive values compared to standards are established.
  3. The clinical utility of a diagnostic technique, i.e., how the results of the study can be used to benefit patient management, is established. The clinical utility of both positive and negative tests must be established.

Approval Process

All policy drafts are presented to the Medical Directors for final approval. 

Medical Policy Updates

Medical policies are re-evaluated and updated annually.  Policies may be reviewed prior to their scheduled review date if new scientific evidence becomes available that would change the policy criteria.

Medical Policy Dissemination

Medical policies are published online and available to members, providers and the general public at  https://www.southcarolinablues.com/web/public/sc/. 

This medical policy was developed through consideration of peer-reviewed medical literature generally recognized by the relevant medical community, U.S. FDA approval status, nationally accepted standards of medical practice and accepted standards of medical practice in this community, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association technology assessment program (TEC) and other non-affiliated technology evaluation centers, reference to federal regulations, other plan medical policies, and accredited national guidelines. 

"Current Procedural Terminology © American Medical Association.  All Rights Reserved"  

History From 2016 Forward     

01/08/2021 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. 

01/02/2020 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. 

01/02/2019 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. 

01/03/2018 

Annual review, no change to policy intent. 

02/06/2017 

Added History section. 

01/05/2017

New Policy


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