by Christine Woolstenhulme, QCC, QMCS, CPC, CMRS
November 10th, 2014
Similar to ICD-9-CM, there is no national requirement for mandatory ICD-10-CM external cause code reporting. Unless you are subject to a State-based external cause code reporting mandate or these codes are required by a particular payer, you are not required to report ICD-10-CM codes found in Chapter 20, External Causes of Morbidity.
If you have not been reporting ICD-9-CM external cause codes, you will not be required to report ICD-10-CM codes found in Chapter 20 unless a new State or payer-based requirement about the reporting of these codes is instituted. If such a requirement is instituted, it would be independent of ICD-10-CM implementation. In the absence of a mandatory reporting requirement, you are encouraged to voluntarily report external cause codes, as they provide valuable data for injury research and evaluation of injury prevention strategies.
In both ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM, sign/symptom and unspecified codes have acceptable, even necessary, uses. While specific diagnosis codes should be reported when they are supported by the available medical record documentation and clinical knowledge of the patient’s health condition, in some instances, signs/symptoms or unspecified codes are the best choice to accurately reflect the health care encounter. Each health care encounter should be coded to the level of certainty known for that encounter. If a definitive diagnosis has not been established by the end of the encounter, it is appropriate to report codes for sign(s) and/or symptom(s) in lieu of a definitive diagnosis. When sufficient clinical information is not known or available about a particular health condition to assign a more specific code, it is acceptable to report the appropriate unspecified code (for example, a diagnosis of pneumonia has been determined but the specific type has not been determined).
In fact, you should report unspecified codes when such codes most accurately reflect what is known about the patient’s condition at the time of that particular encounter. It is inappropriate to select a specific code that is not supported by the medical record documentation or conduct medically unnecessary diagnostic testing to determine a more specific code.