Coding COVID-19 Infection in Newborns
With the 2021 updates to the ICD-10-CM code classification came 14 new chapter specific guidelines. All but one of these guidelines is related to the coding of COVID-19 infection. Needless to say, COVID-19 is a big deal, and getting the coding for this condition correct has implications for both payment considerations and statistical data collection.
However, even when everyone is focused on getting it right, because of the sheer number of new guidelines, it’s easy to see how a coding professional could get confused or overlook some of the important details. In fact there is one new guideline and a related guideline revision in ICD-10-CM Chapter 16 Certain Conditions Originating in the Perinatal Period that could easily cause confusion if the details of the guidelines are not studied carefully. Let’s take a look at both guidelines and consider what impact they have on coding practices.
The revised guideline is I.C.16.a.5 Birth Process or Community Acquired Conditions, and the revision states:
“For COVID-19 infection in a newborn, see guideline I.C.16.h.”
This revision is an addition to the guideline directing whether a condition that presents in a newborn is reported as a perinatal condition (due to the birth process), which would be reported with a code from Chapter 16, or as a community acquired condition, which would be reported with a code from another chapter of ICD-10-CM.
This guideline states that if a newborn has a condition that may be either due to the birth process or community acquired and the documentation does not indicate which it is, the default is due to the birth process and the code from Chapter 16 should be used.
The 2021 revision to guideline I.C.16.a.5, is an indication that when choosing between reporting a condition in a newborn as due to the birth process or as community acquired, the official guidance is different for COVID-19 infection than for other conditions. This addition to the current guideline redirects coders to the new guideline which outlines how this decision should be made for newborns with COVID-19 infection.
The New Guideline
The new guideline is I.C.16.h COVID-19 Infection in Newborn, which states:
“For a newborn that tests positive for COVID-19, assign code U07.1, COVID-19, and the appropriate codes for associated manifestation(s) in neonates/newborns in the absence of documentation indicating a specific type of transmission. For a newborn that tests positive for COVID-19 and the provider documents the condition was contracted in utero or during the birth process, assign codes P35.8, Other congenital viral diseases, and U07.1, COVID-19. When coding the birth episode in a newborn record, the appropriate code from category Z38,
Liveborn infants according to place of birth and type of delivery, should be assigned as the principal diagnosis.”
Key Points from the New Guideline:
· In the absence of documentation indicating a specific type of transmission, a newborn that tests positive for COVID-19 should be assigned code U07.1 COVID-19 infection.
· Assign also the appropriate codes for any associated manifestation(s).
· A positive COVID-19 test in a newborn is only coded as a congenital infection if the physician specifically documents the infection was contracted in utero or during the birth process.
o If the documentation does not indicate whether COVID-19 was contracted due to the birth process or community acquired, the default is community acquired.
· When coding for the birth episode a code from category Z78 Liveborn infants according to the place of birth and type of delivery should be assigned as the principal diagnosis.
A comparison of the guidelines reveals that the coding direction for reporting COVID-19 infections in newborns with no documentation as to type of transmission is the exact opposite of the guidance in the general newborn guideline concerning birth process vs. community-acquired conditions. This opposing guidance means that coding professionals need to pay careful attention when coding COVID-19 infection in newborns so that they do not code according to the wrong guideline out of habit.
On a final note, the direction in the new guideline is based on information from the CDC regarding how the virus is transmitted in newborns based on the most current data available.
The CDC information states “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to neonates, is thought to occur primarily through respiratory droplets during the postnatal period when neonates are exposed to mothers, other caregivers, visitors, or healthcare personnel with COVID-19.”
Additional details can be found on the CDC website here.
Other COVID coding resources can be found on the MRA blog page here.