Home Radio codes Increasing use of ICD-10 Z codes can help meet social needs in primary care

Increasing use of ICD-10 Z codes can help meet social needs in primary care



Kuwahara reports having been a member of CMS and was previously a member of the Association of Community Health Organizations of Asia-Pacific.

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CHICAGO — Despite spending more money on health care than any other country, Americans continue to experience poor health outcomes, according to Rita K. KuwaharaMD, MIH.

“Often it’s tied to unmet social needs,” Kuwahara, a primary care internal medicine physician and health policy researcher at Georgetown University, told Healio. “In fact, in 2019, a report showed that 68% of Americans had an unmet social need, and one in four people struggled to afford their medications.”

Collecting and analyzing data through ICD-10 Z codes could provide more insight into unmet social needs in primary care, said Kuwahara, who is also a member of the Healio Primary Care Peer Perspective Board. However, these codes seem to be underused in clinical practice.

In a recent analysis of data from the 2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, Kuwahara found that only 0.33% of claims among patients living below 100% of the federal poverty level had a Z code from the ICD-10 indicating a social need.

“In our experience, people who live below 100% of the poverty line often have a number of unmet social needs,” Kuwahara said.

She also found that not all social needs have a Z code corresponding to ICD-10. Lack of transport, for example, does not have its own code.

In this video, Kuwahara discusses his research on unmet social needs and how ICD-10 Z codes can help meet them.

“We need to encourage the use of ICD-10 Z codes so that they are used more frequently,” she said. “We need to ensure that all basic social needs that are commonly felt have corresponding ICD-10 Z codes, and we need to develop innovative policy interventions as well as funding to support unmet social needs across our country. so that we can improve health. outcomes, eliminate existing health inequities, and move us toward achieving justice in health.


Kuwahara RK, et al. Developing an infrastructure to identify and respond to social needs in primary care: new strategies for achieving health equity. Presented at: ACP Internal Medicine Meeting; April 28-30, 2022; Chicago.