Residents along the Eastern Seaboard are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a powerful storm that made landfall Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
And given that two months remain in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season -- which officially ends on Nov. 30 -- family physicians should be aware that the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics recently updated its guidelines regarding hurricanes.
The new guidelines(www.cdc.gov) went into effect on Oct. 1; the guidance specific to health care encounters in the aftermath of a hurricane can be found on pages 19-20.
AAFP Coding and Compliance Strategist Barbara Hays, C.P.C., told AAFP News that the external cause codes referenced in the guidance have been in place since the ICD-10-CM code set was implemented on Oct. 1, 2015.
However, the new guidelines give physicians clear direction on how to use them.
"Most payers do not attach payment directly to ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes at this time," said Hays. "So it is important that billing staff and physicians verify if these codes, or any diagnosis code, affects their payment.
"However, any ICD-10-CM code used correctly allows the physician to accurately tell the patient's story," said Hays.
For instance, when the physician attaches the appropriate ICD-10 code, that code makes it clear how a patient broke a leg or sustained a gash on the arm that required medical attention, she explained.
The guidance is broken down by section and includes details on
- use of external cause of morbidity codes,
- sequencing of external causes of morbidity codes,
- other external causes of morbidity code issues, and
- use of Z codes.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, Z codes may be assigned to further explain why a patient presented for health care services. For example, some applicable Z codes include
- Z59.0 -- homelessness,
- Z59.1 -- inadequate housing,
- Z59.5 -- extreme poverty, and
- Z75.1 -- unavailability and inaccessibility of health care facilities.
In addition, using external cause codes on death certificates is an appropriate use of the ICD-10-CM code set. Depending on state formatting and requirements, for example, there may be options to indicate an underlying cause of death and/or note whether significant existing conditions contributed to the death.
Related to specifically to Hurricane Florence, on Sept. 14, CMS issued a press release(www.cms.gov) detailing the agency's ongoing efforts to help with emergency response. Those actions include
- temporarily waiving or modifying certain Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program requirements;
- creating special enrollment opportunities for individuals to access health care immediately; and
- taking steps to ensure dialysis patients were able to obtain services.
Related AAFP News Coverage
AAFP Releases Updated Disaster Preparedness Resources
Family Physician Recounts Hurricane Survival Lessons
CMS: Hurricanes and Tropical Storms(www.cms.gov)