Always Code the Most Specific Diagnosis

Inaccurate or non-specific diagnosis coding can adversely affect your reimbursement of medical claims. Many categories of the ICD-9 contain codes that represent the non-specified site of a certain neoplasm. The are typically indicated with a “9” as the last digit of the code.

Even though all of these codes are viable, accepted diagnoses, many payers, especially Medicare, highly encourage the use of the more “site specific” codes. Failure to be specific can in some instances cause Medical Necessity denials as the non-specific codes may not be listed as acceptable in the payers' Medical Policies. Also, if audited, a discrepancy between the treating diagnosis in the medical chart and the diagnosis submitted on a claim, could cause payment reversals and money due back to the payer.

In all medical specialties, the patient medical record should dictate what services are billed and the diagnoses used.

One specialty example is Radiation Oncology. The prescriptions for Radiation Therapy Treatment Courses are very site specific, so this information is one of the most helpful tools in proper diagnosis coding when used in conjunction with patient data the medical staff has entered into the medical record.

In any specialty, but quite frequently in Radiation Oncology, a patient can have numerous diagnoses that require treatment. In these instances, it is especially important to indicate the proper diagnosis priority on your services. The priority one diagnosis should always be the current treating diagnosis for the service you are billing.

Another frequent situation in Radiation Oncology billing arises when treating a patient for metastatic disease. The metastatic treatment site will be listed as the priority one diagnosis with the primary original site diagnosis listed as the second.

Other specialties would follow a similar scenario if they were treating a complication diagnosis, billed as priority one, from an initial diagnosis, billed as priority two.

A medical billing system with comprehensive ICD -9 and ICD-10 code files, such as Iridium Suite can assist your office in accurately billing the most specific diagnoses for the patients in your practice.