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Primary vs. Secondary Diagnosis

Posted on 03. Jan, 2011 by in Coding Challenge, Hot Coding Topics

Question: Many of our ophthalmology patients claim general reasons for their visit, such as “I can’t see well,” or “My vision is foggy.” We code these visits with 368.8 as the primary diagnosis because this is the primary reason for the visit. Any other problems or underlying causes of the blurry vision we report as secondary diagnoses. Is 368.8 the most appropriate code to use in these situations, and should we list it first?

Answer: You should only report 368.8 (Other specified visual disturbances) as a primary diagnosis code when the ophthalmologist doesn’t find a more definitive diagnosis during the course of the visit.

Carriers often consider a visit for blurred vision the same thing as a routine exam and Medicare will not pay for this service.

Primary vs. secondary: Whenever possible, you should list a more definitive diagnosis as primary and then the patient’s...

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