Every year November is observed as National COPD Awareness Month. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic condition in which the airways become damaged, leading to restricted oxygen access to the lungs. The condition is most often caused by long-term exposure to gases or particulate matter, most commonly cigarette smoke. Although there is no cure for this life-threatening disease, early diagnosis, education, and treatment can slow its progression. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) reports that an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from COPD, and several additional millions likely have COPD and don’t even know it. Early diagnosis and treatment can help people with COPD improve their quality of life and health. Outsourced medical billing helps pulmonary specialists to focus on treating these patients than wasting valuable time on their documentation tasks.
The risk factors of COPD can be increased by smoking tobacco, secondhand smoke, air pollution, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and a few other conditions. While the symptoms include cough, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and wheezing, progressive or more serious symptoms may include respiratory distress, tachypnea, cyanosis, use of accessory respiratory muscles, chronic wheezing, abnormal lung sounds, prolonged expiration, elevated jugular venous pulse, and cyanosis.
Tests to diagnose the condition include Chest X-rays and CT scan of the lungs. A person diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may have any one or both of these chronic lower respiratory diseases such as Emphysema and Chronic bronchitis.
Although lung damage is irreversible, therapies that can improve the quality of life include Bronchodilator, Medication, Pulmonary rehabilitation, Oxygen and Surgery. When it comes to reimbursement, Medicare covers pulmonary rehabilitation for moderate to severe COPD. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) measure the mechanical ability to move air in and out of the lungs and the effectiveness of getting oxygen into, and carbon dioxide out of, the body.
Based on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease program (GOLD), the staging of COPD is done as follows
1 – Very mild COPD with an FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in one second) – 80 percent or higher of normal. Reduced airflow often goes unnoticed
2 – Moderate COPD with an FEV1 between 50 and 80 percent of normal. Chronic coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath are symptoms.
3 – Severe emphysema with FEV1 between 30 and 50 percent of normal. Symptoms worsen and may affect normal activity.
4 – Very severe, or “end stage,” COPD with a lower FEV1 than stage 3, or has stage 3 FEV1 and low blood oxygen levels. Lung function gets worsen to life-threatening levels.
While this whole month is dedicated to COPD awareness, this year’s World COPD Day is on November 15. All those interested in raising COPD awareness can host events, lead discussions, and thus help people across the country take the first step toward improving the lives of those with COPD.
Pulmonary doctors must submit medical claims with accurate medical codes to get reimbursement on-time. Medical coding companies with long-term experience in the field can help physicians with accurate coding.
Our next blog on COPD medical coding will help you get a clear idea on assigning the right codes for this condition.