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Monday, February 24, 2014

Catching a Code at the Doctor's Office

If you've noticed a tad more tension in the air than usual at your doctor's office, one contributing factor just might be the impending implementation of something called "ICD-10," short for International Classification of Diseases, version 10.  Or, for long-suffering patients of every stripe, the cluster of diagnostic codes that reflect what you're being treated for--and how your doctor is reimbursed. 

My sister, a clinical nurse specialist in Columbus, OH, has already taken three online courses in the new version. Docs have not been exactly eager  to implement it, because they're not going to get any direct benefit--it's the health insurers and statisticians who will supposedly learn more about the procedures being ordered for patients. How much more?  Diagnostic codes have mushroomed from 18,000 to a whopping 140,000. As that essential blogger you should be following, the Skeptical Scalpel noted when the codes first appeared (doc offices have until October this year to implement): the codes' specificity is mind-boggling. 

His winner for most head-scratching: Code V9027XA, the code for "drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from burning water-skis, initial encounter." The good surgeon pondered:  "How does one have subsequent visits after drowning? Once one drowns, he is dead."

MedPage Today is running a series it calls "ICD-10 Follies," spotlighting various codes it deems may be "a bit too granular." Among the highlights is Code W61.92, "struck by birds," which gets its own youtube re-enactment here (or see below). 

In case you were wondering, there are also separate billing codes for being struck by parrots, macaws, psittacines, chickens, geese, and ducks. Hence, W61.92 is for all other types of birds. You're welcome.  --Barbara Bedway

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