How to code lingering and late effects of COVID-19

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics May 2021, Volume 98, Issue 5

There are many symptoms that can be associated with so-called long-haulers.

Q: Is there a listing of the common late effects of COVID-19?

A: Late effects of COVID-19 comprise many conditions and symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is learning about more every day.Many patients post COVID-19 have one or more conditions and symptoms, including those listed below.

These are general symptoms and therefore some unspecified codes are listed.If more information is known about a patient’s symptoms, more specific codes should be used.

What is not known, however, is what symptoms and complications may linger long after an initial COVID-19 infection. Early research by the CDC shows the disease attacks more than just the respiratory system, it also affects multiple organs with blood clots and inflammation.

The CDC also reports that, although older patients may have an increased risk for severe disease, young survivors, including those physically fit prior to having been infected with COVID-19, also have reported symptoms months after acute illness.The CDC is investigating how to differentiate symptoms of a prolonged course of COVID-19 illness from sequelae following resolution of the acute infection.

Some of these patients have been categorized as long haulers. Physicians may see these patients on a regular basis because the diagnoses can be frequent, long term and difficult to manage. Update these diagnoses at each visit to ensure correct coding.

Renee Dowling is a billing and coding consultant with VEI Consulting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Send your coding questions to medec@mjhlifesciences.com.