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ICD-10: How To Code 7th Character Extensions

By | ICD-10 | No Comments

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 10.14.40 PMFor chiropractic physicians transitioning to ICD-10, most of the time they will be using chapter 13 (Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System and Connective Tissue.) For injuries however, they’re more likely to use chapter 19 (Injury, Poisoning & Other Certain Consequences of External Causes).

Chapter 19 codes are easy to identify in the tabular list because of the “S” at the beginning of each of these codes. The “s” codes represent conditions such as sprains and strains as in the following example, S13.4XXA, Sprain of Cervical Spine Ligaments, Initial Encounter.

The confusion comes in when the code asks for a seventh character extension. These are sometimes called the encounter codes.

As you look for a specific injury code in chapter 19, you will see directly underneath the code category or “Block,” the directions that the code requires a 7th character.



S13 Dislocation and sprain of joints and ligaments at neck level

The appropriate 7th character is to be added to each code from category S13

A initial encounter

D subsequent encounter

S sequela



The official guidelines indicate the following:

A – Initial encounter:

As long as patient is receiving active treatment for the condition.

D – Subsequent encounter: (CONSIDERED MAINTENANCE CARE)*

After patient has received active treatment and is receiving  routine care for the                condition.

S – Sequela:

Complications or conditions that arise as a direct result of a condition.

(e.g., scar formation after a burn)


Chiropractic physicians should always use the “A” character with injury codes as long as they feel the patient should be receiving “active treatment” and can show that the patient is improving with the treatment provided.

At seminars, I am often asked, “What If The Patient Comes Back To Your Office In Three Months With The Same Condition?” My answer is code “A” for active care.

To Medicare and the insurance companies, coding “D” means maintenance care and that means you will be denied payment.

When I queried the insurance companies, such as Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield they defer to Medicare rules.

So for now, “A” stands for active care and “D” stands for maintenance care when it comes to reimbursement from payers.

Dr. John Davenport DCM, CCSP, FIAMA, MCSP

Chief Compliance Officer

FCPA Compliance Adviser

About the Author

Dr. Davenport ran his own clinic for many years. He now provides expert witness testimony, insurance consulting, medical record audits, consulting, and online courses for healthcare providers. He also writes books and articles for trade journals, and is a sought-after seminar speaker.


It’s Time To Get Ready For ICD-10

By | ICD-10 | No Comments

helpThe Boy Scout motto was to be prepared. Are you? It’s been my experience as a compliance consultant that when it comes to compliance the vast majority of doctors are completely unprepared for the increased regulation and scrutiny.

This may not surprise you, but according to recent surveys 80% of all providers will not be ready by October 2015, and the percentage is probably higher for chiropractors.

What is perhaps more shocking, is how few of the payers are ready or estimated they would have a finished product ready by the end this year. Only 40%.

I can understand the procrastination of most chiropractors in getting ready. They don’t have a lot of extra time and extra staff around to dedicate to the task.

It’s not time to “panic” yet, but to make a smooth transition
to the October, 2015 deadline, there are several things you can begin doing now.

Bear in mind that even though the number of codes will grow from 17,000 to 140,000, you only need to know the codes that relate directly to chiropractic.

You and your staff will need training in multiple formats. Compliance & Auditing Services’ members will get the codes with explanations and how to cross check for the appropriate codes. Members also have webinars and the training newsletter to make it easy, with unlimited email to get answers to any questions.

It will be too late to learn this new language once ICD -10 goes “live,” because you will be behind the curve.

First, identify how ICD -10 will effect your practice.

1. How will ICD-10 effect your people and processes? To find out, review how and where staff and doctors use ICD-9.

2. Ask your payers and vendors (software systems, clearinghouses, billing services) about ICD-10 readiness. Ask when they will start testing, how long they will need, and how you and other clients will be involved.

3. Develop a plan for communicating with staff and business partners about ICD-10.

4. Estimate and secure budget (potential costs include updates to practice management systems and government payment delays.

5. Ideally, have a cash reserve of at least 3 months operating expenses so your office will be able to continue to function normally.

6. Work on your documentation. ICD-10 codes are much more specific and your documentation will need to improve to match them.

➢ This is important because if the insurance carriers ask for documentation to justify the codes, poor documentation will slow the process down or result in all out denials.

So for now, focus on these first steps in preparing your office for the ICD-10 transition and don’t sweat it.

Together we will make it easy to stay on track. After all, you have better things to do with your time than worry about the constant changes.

Dr. John Davenport
Chief Compliance Officer