Coding with ICD-10 will offer some interesting experiences for clinicians. Practitioners must keep in mind that they need to bill at the highest level whenever possible. That means taking extra time if necessary to track down the correct codes for optimal billing. Getting the codes right will mean the difference between getting reimbursed and delayed payments.
The following is an example of the type of coding required to provide premium treatment for the patient and optimal reimbursement for the clinician.
Mrs. Smith was riding her horse through an orchard road adjoining her property. Her two siblings were riding their horse with her. As she neared an irrigation pond on the property, a Canadian goose flew up and startled one of the other horses. The second horse whirled to put his rump toward the “threat” and lashed out with both back hooves. One hoof struck Mrs. Smith on the tailbone causing immediate pain. The injury happened two weeks prior and she still experiences pain, along with numbness at the tailbone, radiating 3-4 inches in all directions from the site of the injury. Over the counter medications offer no relief. Past medical history is unremarkable. She followed up with her primary care physician who referred her to physical therapy. Patient indicates no x-rays or other diagnostic tests have been done.
Patient is 5 feet tall and weighs 120 lbs. Blood pressure is 120/70, pulse rate 72 and respiratory rate is 16. She has full strength and function in all muscle groups, but now walks slowly and hunched over. Has pain upon walking, sitting and reclining. Range of movement is normal but patient complains of pain upon movement and examination. Special tests: X-ray.
Exam/x-ray shows bruising, swelling and fracture of the coccyx. Treatment is to rest and to address pain. Postural exercises and home exercise for continued mobility.
Y93.52 – Horseback riding, describes the activity at the time of the injury
W55.12XA – Struck by horse, describes what caused the injury
532.2XXA – Fracture of coccyx, initial encounter for closed fracture, describes the anatomical area where the injury is located and indicates this is a first time injury
R26.2 – Describes the symptom of the injury (constant pain and difficulty walking, sitting and reclining)
Clinicians know that ICD-10 codes are much more specific, but part of the learning curve will be wading through massive numbers of potential codes to arrive at the options that best suit the injury or need. The new codes include activities ranging from gardening and pollen reactions to knitting and running into a lamp post, complete with initial and subsequent encounters. It’s unlikely that therapists will require the codes for those potential incidents, but it points out the increased specificity of the new codes.
One of the challenges that practitioners will face is the sheer volume of data contained in the new code sets. GEMs provide a partial solution, but in an effort to stamp out fraud and save money, clinicians are now being inundated with too much information. GEMs, EMRs and other software can sort through data quickly and provide potential solutions, but they can’t make decisions about what to display for a given situation.