The American Hospital Association (AHA) has posted updated guidance to help hospitals and clinicians use ICD-10-CM “Z codes” to capture data on the social needs of patient populations, including non-medical factors that may influence a patient’s health status.

At the national level, adding social needs data to hospital claims enables system-wide research to gain a better understanding of the health-related social needs of patients and communities around the country. Federal programs could be tailored to meet those needs. Furthermore, as payment moves from volume to value, having claims data connected to social needs can support policy and payment reforms, including appropriate risk-adjustments.

The AHA recommends the following:

  1. Hospital leaders should educate key stakeholders, including physicians, nonphysician health care providers and coding professionals of the important need to screen, document and code data on patients’ social needs. Utilizing Z codes will allow hospitals and health systems to better track social needs and identify solutions to improve the health of their patients and communities.
  2. As coding professionals review a patient’s medical record to identify the appropriate ICD-10-CM codes to include, they should be aware of and begin utilizing the ICD-10-CM codes included in categories Z55-Z65.
  3. Hospital leaders can prioritize the importance of documenting and coding patients’ social needs and allow coders extra time to integrate coding for social determinants into their processes.

Source: American Hospital Association (AHA)

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