Health Language Blog

Keeping Up With COVID-19

Posted on 03/25/20

COVID resized

New COVID-19 Related Codes Now Available

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the world is hyper-focused, as it should be, on the caregivers and the population of patients contracting the virus.  However, we must also keep in mind the need for clear and concise documentation regarding the diagnosis, testing, and tracking of the spread of the virus.

There are hundreds of medical terminologies that document every step of the health care process through admission, testing, treatment, discharge, and billing.  So when there is a large health event or worldwide pandemic, like COVID-19, it requires quick changes and updates to those terminology sets.  This is required to ensure that health care providers have the ability to accurately document, track, and treat their patients in a timely fashion. 

For the benefit of healthcare organizations looking to understand what’s changed and how to manage this pandemic, I’ve taken the opportunity to summarize changes to the billing and coding sets, their effective dates, provided links to the various standards bodies, and summarized how these codes will benefit clinicians who are tasked with documenting the COVID-19 condition at the point-of-care.

ICD-10-CM

After much speculation and back and forth, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), under the National Emergencies Act Section 201 and 301, authorized the addition of U07.1, a new diagnosis code specific to COVID-19. Due to the urgent need to capture the reporting of this condition, the CDC announced on Wednesday, March 18th, that the new code would be made effective, April 1st, 2020.  This new code falls under the Conditions of uncertain etiology hierarchy that will be new with the 2021 release. 

For further information regarding the CDC’s guidance, please click here.

Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)

The American Medical Association (AMA) has created a new CPT® code to streamline the testing process by US healthcare providers. Code 87635 for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-2-CoV-2) (Coronavirus disease [COVID-19]) was accepted as the new industry standard CPT code for reporting COVID-19 testing, made effective March 13, 2020. Because this is considered an, out of cycle release for CPT, it will be officially included in the 2021 data file, released in the fall 2020.

For further information about the new CPT code and description, click here.

HCPCS

In February, CMS developed a new Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code in order to allow healthcare providers and laboratories the ability to appropriately document and bill for COVID-19 specific testing. The new HCPCS code, U0001, can be used specifically for CDC testing laboratories to test patients for SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19. The second HCPCS billing code, U0002, allows laboratories to bill for non-CDC laboratory tests for SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV COVID-19. Beginning April 1, 2020, Medicare claims processing systems will be able to accept this new HCPCS code for COVID-19 specific services provided to their patients. 

For further information on the new codes for coronavirus lab testing, click here.

SNOMED-CT

SNOMED International has released a March 2020 INTERIM International Edition Release, which includes relevant COVID-19 concepts including updates to content and descriptions. This release provides clinicians, researchers, and administrators with the most up to date terminology needed to code, analyze, and appropriately address the Coronavirus.

It is important to note that this interim release is not a recall of the January SNOMED CT release, but rather is an update in response to international renaming, to ensure that SNOMED CT is current to best support global Coronavirus efforts.

Within the release notes, SNOMED International states that, “Implementers are encouraged to update to the new edition; however, they are NOT obliged to do so as the concept modelling and identifiers are not being modified.” They later make note that the entirety of these changes will be incorporated into the July 2020 International Edition Release. 

The COVID-19 specific SNOMED codes are as follows:

SNOMED CT Identifier

Fully Specified Name

Preferred Term

840539006

Disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (disorder)

COVID-19

840544004

Suspected disease caused by severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (situation)

Suspected COVID-19

840534001

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 vaccination (procedure)

SARS-CoV-2 vaccination

840536004

Antigen of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (substance)

Antigen of SARS-CoV-2

840535000

Antibody to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (substance)

Antibody to SARS-CoV-2

840546002

Exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (event)

Exposure to SARS-CoV-2

840533007

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (organism)

SARS-CoV-2

Click here to view the release notes including the list of new content released in the March 2020 release.

LOINC

While there are no official new codes to announce, we felt it was still important to include LOINC® in this blog update. With that in mind, the LOINC team has announced the creation of several special use pre-released codes that have been developed in response to COVID-19 testing needs. It is important to note that these codes are subject to change and understand that they may not be published in the next, or any, public release.

For further information on the pre-released LOINC codes, click here.

Documenting Problems & Diagnosis at the Point-of-Care

In partnership with our EHR vendors, clinicians who utilize our Clinical Interface Terminology solution to search and document problems and diagnoses at the point-of-care will now have access to new search terms and codes associated with COVID-19.  Health Language has added 10 new search terms with multiple synonyms such as 2019-nCoV, and 2019 novel coronavirus.

These new search terms such as; COVID-19 Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Exposure to COVID-19, and suspected COVID-19, will enable clinicians to adhere to the new codes released by SNOMED International and CMS in order to properly document, analyze, benchmark, and report patients who contract COVID-19.

These updates will be made available to all clients before the April 1st, 2020 effective date for the new ICD-10-CM code. 

Healthcare Organizations Managing Reference Data

For clients that subscribe to our ICD-10, SNOMED CT, or CPT products, our team has updated the respective data files to reflect the current guidance around COVID-19, which is now available via our Content Update Streaming Portal or available via our hosted Reference Data Management environment.

With this rapidly changing situation it is best to keep in mind that all these codes have been created due to an urgent and emergent situation and are subject to change or deletion at any time. 

As the situation develops Health Language will continue to monitor the changes and update our content as needed as quickly as possible for our clients to remain compliant and up to date.  Speak to a Health Language expert if you have questions or want to learn more about the COVID-19 related codes.  

CPT® is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association (AMA).
SNOMED CT® is a registered trademark of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO).
LOINC® is a registered trademark of Regenstrief Institute, Inc.

Topics: ICD-10, Standard terminologies, LOINC, SNOMED CT, standards, COVID-19, Coronavirus

About the Author

Katie Sutton

Katie Sutton Clinical Informatics Manager for Health Language, brings 11 years of medical coding experience to the HL Content team. Katie started her healthcare career as a Medicare billing specialist and outpatient coder at the University of Colorado Hospital. She moved to The Children’s Hospital of Colorado as an Inpatient and Outpatient facility coder, and capped her coding career as an outpatient coder for Centura Health. Katie has coded across multiple specialties and is happy to have such a wide range of coding knowledge from the wonderful institutions where she has worked. She loves medical terminology and is always excited to teach others and help them on their own journey.