ICD-10 Coding Uncovers Higher Rate of Fatal Falls Among Seniors

Cheryl Clark, May 21, 2012

The risk of falls among seniors should become an even more important prevention focus for clinicians and discharge planners because of new research that ICD-10 coding shows a 42% increase in falls as a cause of death among those 65 and older between 1999 and 2007.

One subcategory, falls on the same level, which went up 698%, was largely responsible for the overall increase.

The report, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, concludes that the increased death rate is not because more seniors are suffering more serious falls, but because coding for death classification was updated from International Classification of Diseases (ICD) ninth revision to ICD-10 in 1999, which encourages more detail about the underlying cause of death.

The paper is published this month in the journal Public Health Reports.

Since the transition to ICD-10 cause-of-death coding, "There has been increasing attention to educating doctors and medical examiners to let them know there's a correct way to code death, and (in these cases) that there was a fall that led to it," says Susan Baker, a professor with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the author of the report.

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