One Symptom in New Medical Codes: Doctor Anxiety

By Robert Pear

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The nation’s health care providers are under orders to start using a new system of medical codes to describe illnesses and injuries in more detail than ever before. The codes will cover common ailments: Did a diabetic also have kidney disease? But also included are some that are far less common: whether the patient was crushed by a crocodile or sucked into a jet engine.

The more than 100,000 new codes, which will take effect on Oct. 1, have potential benefits, as they will require doctors to make a deeper assessment of many patients.

But the change is causing waves of anxiety among health care providers, who fear that claims will be denied and payments delayed if they do not use the new codes, or do not use them properly. Some doctors and hospitals are already obtaining lines of credit because they fear that the transition to the new system will cause cash-flow problems.

Did a diabetic also have kidney disease, eye problems or nerve damage? Did a patient with high blood pressure also have signs of congestive heart failure? Was that broken finger on the left or right hand? Was the fracturein the top, bottom or middle of the finger?


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