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New Health Care Codes for Human Trafficking will Help Plan Treatment and Build Services

October 09, 2018

Human trafficking is a crime that occurs when one individual exploits another individual with force, fraud, or coercion to make them perform commercial work or sex.

Health care providers are often among the first or single points of connection for these individuals. In fact, research indicates 87 percent of human trafficking survivors said they received medical treatment from a hospital or clinic while they were being trafficked.1

Unfortunately, the health care community has not been able to track these cases. The existing International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10) abuse codes did not properly differentiate human trafficking victims from other abuse victims. These codes are used by physicians and other health care providers to classify and code all diagnoses, symptoms, and procedures recorded in conjunction with hospital care in the United States.

On October 1, 2018, several new ICD-10 codes took effect that allow health providers to report suspected or known cases of different kinds of trafficking including labor trafficking and sex trafficking. 

How do we get here?

Wendy Macias-Konstantopoulos, MD, an emergency physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and director of its human trafficking initiative, worked with officials from Colorado-based health system Catholic Health Initiatives. They engaged the American Hospital Association (AHA), which hosted a meeting with officials from around the country to discuss the problem. 

Together, the group advocated to convince Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials that the new codes were helpful and necessary. Finally, during June 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services published 29 codes.

Under the new codes, clinicians at hospitals and other medical facilities can adequately document confirmed and suspected cases of forced sexual and labor exploitation and plan treatment. The new codes:

  • Allow hospitals and health systems to better track victim needs and identify solutions to improve the health of their communities
  • Allow organizations to track the incidence and/or reoccurrence of labor or sexual exploitation.
  • Provide another source for data collection to inform public policy and prevention efforts, as well as support the systemic development of an infrastructure for services and resources

As part of the AHA’s Hospital Against Violence initiative, tools and resources are available to providers online.

For additional information, contact Kate Slatt, HAP’s senior director, innovative payment and care delivery.
 


1 Identification of human trafficking victims in health care settings
Baldwin SB, Eisenman DP, Sayles JN, Ryan G, Chuang KS, Health Hum Rights. 2011 Jul 14;13(1):E36-49.
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