VIDEO: Increasing the use of ICD-10 Z codes may help address social needs in primary care
CHICAGO — Despite spending more money on health care than any other nation, Americans continue to experience poor health outcomes, according to Rita K. Kuwahara, MD, MIH.
“Often, this is related to unmet social needs,” Kuwahara, a primary care internal medicine physician and health policy fellow at Georgetown University, told Healio. “In fact, in 2019, a report showed that 68% of Americans had an unmet social need, and one in four people had difficulty affording their medicines.”
Collecting and analyzing data through ICD-10 Z codes could provide more insight into unmet social needs in primary care, said Kuwahara, who is also a Healio Primary Care Peer Perspective Board member. However, these codes appear to be underused in clinical practice.
In a recent analysis of 2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data, Kuwahara found that only 0.33% of claims among patients living under 100% of the federal poverty level had an ICD-10 Z code indicating a social need.
“In our experience, individuals who are living under 100% of poverty level often have a number of unmet social needs,” Kuwahara said.
She also found that not all social needs have a corresponding ICD-10 Z code. Lack of transportation, for example, does not have its own code.
In this video, Kuwahara discusses her research on unmet social needs and how ICD-10 Z codes can help address them.
“We need to incentivize the use of ICD-10 Z codes so that they are used more frequently,” she said. “We need to make sure that all the basic social needs that are commonly experienced have corresponding ICD-10 Z codes, and we need to develop innovative policy interventions as well as funding to support unmet social needs throughout our nation so that we can improve health outcomes, eliminate existing health inequities and move us to a path toward achieving health justice.”
Kuwahara RK, et al. Developing an infrastructure to identify and address social needs in primary care: Novel strategies to achieve health equity. Presented at: ACP Internal Medicine Meeting; April 28-30 2022; Chicago.