It wouldn't surprise most health providers to know they've likely interacted with a victim of human trafficking. Research has shown healthcare providers are often among the first or only points of contact for trafficked individuals.
But how does healthcare even track the problem to begin getting a handle on how to address it? There really hasn't been a way, said Mindy Hatton, AHA's general counsel.
"We can tell you how many people last year were bitten on the left arm by a shark. But we couldn’t tell you whether or not a victim of human trafficking came into one our facilities," Hatton said. "There’s just something fundamentally wrong with a coding system where you can’t capture that kind of important information."
That is, until several new ICD-10 codes (PDF) took effect Oct. 1 to allow health providers to report suspected or known cases of different kinds of trafficking including labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
Across the globe, approximately 21 million people are victimized by human trafficking, according to the report, making the ability of clinicians to identify them and provide treatment critical. Research indicates 87% of human trafficking survivors said they received medical treatment from a hospital or clinic while they were being trafficked, but the problem still often goes undetected, she says.
"There’s just a widespread agreement it’s a problem, it’s a growing problem and we as a society have to devote more time and resources to stopping it and helping the victims."