D'Arcy Gue

ICD-10, Ebola, and You

October 9, 2014

ICD-10 3 Minute Read

Unless you are living under a rock, you are well aware that there has been a documented case of Ebola in the United States. That patient, who unfortunately did not recover from his illness, was infected in Africa. By the time he’d been diagnosed, he had potentially exposed a large number of people he interacted with, including a number of people on his flights back to Dallas. Another serious virus is currently making its way across the United States, enterovirus D68, which has infected 628 people in 44 states.

One thing both viruses have in common is symptoms. Both cause headaches and anxiety for public health officials. It’s those officials who are responsible for research, reporting, tracking, and surveillance on both of these deadly viruses, and countless other diseases with the potential to cause serious infections in the population of the United States.  

This disease tracking activity is so important that it has worked its way into Meaningful Use / MIPS, where Syndromic Surveillance is a core requirement for stage 2. Unfortunately,  there is a serious obstacle that public health officials face when doing this surveillance — that obstacle is ICD-9.

Ann Chenoweth, director of industry relations at 3M Health Information Systems, recently called attention to this issue.  She points out in a recent blog post that, “When looking at ICD-9 today, Ebola is often classified to 078.89, Other specified diseases due to viruses, but I have also seen Ebola classified to 065.8, Other specified arthropod-borne hemorrhagic fever. This lack of specificity in the ICD-9 code description makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clearly identify Ebola patients in the data. In turn, the ability for our public health organizations to quickly and proactively identify emerging epidemics can be severely compromised.”

Ebola Map

Ebola affected areas as of October 9, 2014

What does this mean for ICD-10 and healthcare professionals? 

Tracking and preventing the spread of infectious diseases  provides just one of many  real and practical reasons for using ICD-10, and is a priority for the government. Increased health risks of such diseases in the United States are creating alarm among the public – who will call the government and our healthcare system accountable if they are not adequately responsive. The government cannot afford to allow the United States to continue as the only developed country not using ICD-10.

Despite continuing doubt that this ICD-10 date (October 1, 2015) will be a “real” implementation date,  there are too many reasons against a further delay. Many of those reasons, like tracking Ebola and other infectious diseases and reducing the costs of healthcare are very high-profile and very critical.

Bottom line? ICD-10 is real this time. We need it. The world needs us to have it. It’s going to happen.

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