Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips/

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips/

After reading about the new and very specific medical coding that is being put in place because of the new healthcare regs, several odd-sounding scenarios struck me as funny, and I couldn’t resist sharing my humor with my docs (and I couldn’t wait to see if this drill-down-deep coding system was for real).  So, to my cardiologist, I said, “I will say I’m glad to report no encounters with squirrels.”

We laughed, and then my doc insisted typing in “squirrel” into the search bar of the coding app. Sure enough, besides “encounter with squirrel,” there was “subsequent encounter with squirrel”…and so on. Also, there was “bitten by squirrel,” etc. In all, I think there are 6-8 codes related to squirrels!

After the wondering (what is an encounter with a squirrel, as opposed to “bitten by squirrel?”), and sharing a good laugh, I turned to the more serious topic of how we communicate what ails us. True, it might seem outlandish to have to go into such detail with a coding system. However, there is a lot of good in fine-tuning our words so that our doctors know exactly how we are feeling. After all, if they don’t know, they cannot readour minds – and our overall healthcare might suffer.

I have long-recommended that we patients each develop our own “health thesaurus” so that we can specifically (or as nearly as possible) describe our symptoms and the conditions under which we feel them. I’ve also encouraged each of us to understand as much as we possibly can about our illnesses so that we can link what is happening with us with verbiage that will resonate with the healthcare professional trying to understand. So, in this regard, a more specific coding system might be helpful…to a point.

As our docs struggle to navigate the maze of those oh-so-detailed descriptions and find just the right code to fit our health and lives, we will probably have to be more than a little patient. But, too, we will no doubt find lots to chuckle over…even if it is that we have no encounters with squirrels to report!



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