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Oncology & Hematology Coding Alert

Take Your Leukemia Diagnosis Coding to Even Higher Levels -- Here's How

- Published on Mon, May 26, 2008
Expect denials if you miss this fifth-digit relapse change ICD-9 2009 brings a truckload of new leukemia codes to help with your constant quest for the highest degree of specificity. The big changes come from a slew of new codes for conditions involving leukemia relapse. Let our experts show you what you need to know. The lowdown: CMS just released its preliminary 2009 ICD-9 list. The changes aren't official yet, but this analysis will give you a head start on the changes that will most likely go into effect Oct. 1. ICD-9 Requires Fifth Digit for Leukemia ICD-9 now offers the following fifth-digit options for leukemia codes in the 203-208 range: - 0 -- without mention of remission - 1 -- in remission. As of now, you have no specific fifth-digit option to indicate relapse. Using 2008 ICD-9 options, you use the fifth digit of "0" and check patient charts for physician notes indicating relapse, says Kelly Reibman, CPC, a biller with oncologist Mariette Austin, PhD, MD, in Bethlehem, Pa. Example: You should code for a patient diagnosed with chronic monocytic leukemia who had a relapse with 206.10 (Monocytic leukemia; chronic; without mention of remission). New Fifth Digit Brings Coding Into Focus According to the preliminary ICD-9 2009 codes CMS released, leukemia codes will include a new option for the fifth digit as of Oct. 1. Leukemia codes with the new fifth-digit "2" will tell the payer that a patient has had a relapse for the condition you indicate with the ICD-9 code. The fifth digit will be available for 203.02-208.92. Here's an example of your new coding options for lymphoid leukemia: - 204.02 -- Acute lymphoid leukemia; in relapse - 204.12 -- Chronic lymphoid leukemia; in relapse - 204.22 -- Subacute lymphoid leukemia; in relapse - 204.82 -- Other lymphoid leukemia; in relapse - 204.92 -- Unspecified lymphoid leukemia; in relapse. Benefit: With the addition of this new fifth digit, you can code to the highest specificity without worrying that your coding isn't expressing every aspect of the oncologist's diagnosis. These new codes will assist you by letting the insurance carriers know that patients have relapsed and that they may need additional treatment or testing, Reibman says. Help Yourself Through Documentation More specific codes can be helpful especially when payer policies require them, says Lonna Maile, coding manager with Hawaii Pacific Health. The challenge lies in educating your physician on the necessity for accurately documenting diagnoses to the highest specificity, Maile says. What to do: Be sure the oncologist understands the importance of documenting the relapse in the patient's chart, Reibman says. Without that documentation, you may end up not choosing the most accurate code, she says. Tip: "Oncology [...]

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