Yes, there's now a code for coronavirus. Plus emergency doctors, nurses say more resources needed

Hopefully, not many healthcare organizations will need to use it, but there’s now an ICD-10 code for treating patients with coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC's) National Center for Health Statistics will implement a new ICD-10 diagnosis code for the 2019 novel coronavirus, which has officially been named COVID-19, effective with the next coding update on Oct. 1, according to an announcement (PDF).

A new ICD-10 emergency code—U07.1, 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease—was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an emergency meeting late last month. The day before the meeting, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

The CDC, which will add the new diagnosis code into the ICD-10, has also released interim coding guidance (PDF) to report any healthcare encounters or deaths related to the coronavirus.

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The guidance provides codes for a number of illnesses—including pneumonia, acute bronchitis, lower respiratory infections and acute respiratory distress syndrome—when healthcare providers link the condition to the coronavirus.

CDC officials this week said it is a question of when, whether than if, the U.S. will see the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country. Officials warned hospitals, businesses and schools to prepare for the possibility of a "significant disruption" in their communities.

Both emergency physicians and nurses have urged Congress to approve emergency supplemental appropriations to ensure the U.S. health system has the resources needed to address an outbreak of coronavirus.

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The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) sent a letter (PDF) Wednesday to the House Appropriations Committee asking Congress to pass an emergency bill.

“More can and should be done to minimize the risk of coronavirus in the United States,” William Jaquis, M.D., ACEP president, said in a statement. “It is critical that we empower our nation’s emergency care teams and public health experts to protect millions of people and respond quickly and effectively to this virus.”    

Additional resources would greatly improve hospital preparedness, public health emergency preparedness, research and development of medical treatments and public awareness.

“As the safety net for our communities, emergency departments across the country are filled with patients who have nowhere else to go for their healthcare needs. The emergence of novel coronavirus as a possible pandemic, amid an already challenging flu season, serves as a reminder that we must ensure our health communities—first responders, public health departments and hospitals—have the necessary resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to provide the best possible care to all patients,” said ENA President Mike Hastings, R.N.