Appropriate Use Criteria Program


The Protecting Access to Medicare Act (PAMA) of 2014, Section 218(b), established a new program to increase the rate of appropriate advanced diagnostic imaging services provided to Medicare beneficiaries.

Examples of such advanced imaging services include:

  • computed tomography (CT)
  • positron emission tomography (PET)
  • nuclear medicine, and
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Under this program, at the time a practitioner orders an advanced diagnostic imaging service for a Medicare beneficiary, he/she, or clinical staff acting under his/her direction, will be required to consult a qualified Clinical Decision Support Mechanism (CDSM). CDCs are electronic portals through which appropriate use criteria (AUC) is accessed. The CDSM provides a determination of whether the order adheres to AUC, or if the AUC consulted was not applicable (e.g., no AUC is available to address the patient’s clinical condition). Consultation must take place at the time of the order for imaging services that will be furnished in one of the below settings and paid for under one of the below payment systems.  Ultimately, practitioners whose ordering patterns are considered outliers will be subject to prior authorization.

This program impacts all physicians and practitioners (as defined in 1861(r) or described in 1842(b)(18)(C)), that order advanced diagnostic imaging services and physicians, practitioners, and facilities that furnish advanced diagnostic imaging services in a physician’s office, hospital outpatient department (including the emergency department), an ambulatory surgical center or an independent diagnostic testing facility (IDTF) and whose claims are paid under the physician fee schedule, hospital outpatient prospective payment system or ambulatory surgical center payment system.

Program Timeline

Currently, the program is set to be fully implemented on January 1, 2021, which means AUC consultations with qualified CDSMs are required to occur along with reporting of consultation information on the furnishing professional and furnishing facility claim for the advanced diagnostic imaging service.  Claims that fail to append this information will not be paid.  Prior to this date, the program will operate in an Education and Operations Testing Period starting January 1, 2020, during which claims will not be denied for failing to include proper AUC consultation information.  Beginning July 1, 2018, the program is operating under a voluntary participation period during which time consultations with AUC may occur and may be reported on furnishing professional and facility claims using HCPCS modifier QQ.


Appropriate Use Criteria Program