By Jessicah Ray, PA-C
Why is a diagnosis of human trafficking important?
Human trafficking is internationally recognized as a public health problem with over 40.3 million victims identified, and with one-quarter of those being children. (Dovydaitis, 2010, Fink-Samnick, 2018).
In response to this global epidemic, hospitals and clinics are joining the mission to end human trafficking as the intercessors and advocates of the most vulnerable by improving diagnostic skills (Andrews, 2018). Because 86% of human trafficking victims are in contact with health care providers during the time of exploitation, multiple health initiatives are being launched to train providers how to identify human trafficking patients, safely report the abuse, and who to contact for intervention resources. (Dovydaitis, 2010). Health care providers have the critical opportunity to intervene by identifying the cause of the abuse with the correct diagnosis, treating the acute medical conditions, and developing a treatment plan with a specialty team. (Dovydaitis, 2010).
An unexpected tool of medical coding (ICD-10 codes) is now aiding the effort to combat these crimes against humanity. To better identify human trafficking victims, specific ICD-10 T codes have been produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and released in October of 2018 (American Hospital Association, 2018; Fink-Samnick, 2018) to enhance the accurate identification and diagnosis of human trafficking, and to distinguish from other diagnoses such as domestic violence, prostitution, or child abuse.
Why is the correct medical code (ICD-10) important?
1) Special care: Human trafficking victims are at increased risk of chronic injuries, complex psychological health problems, and social/legal considerations that warrant long-term multidisciplinary care and comprehensive resources. With the proper diagnosis, those care options are more readily available through established response protocols and automated referral systems.
2) Informing Policy: Human trafficking statistics are notoriously underestimated due to underreporting, misdiagnosis, and the victim’s inaccessibility to health care. Medical codes are used to quantify and validate the needs of patients to better inform health policy where and how funds should be allocated. Data from these codes drives the financing for the needed prevention, rescue, and restoration resources.
Where should you go?
The American Hospital Association (2018) provides a complete list and guide for the new ICD-10 T codes:
What else can I do?
Multiple resources are available for multidisciplinary professionals to learn about human trafficking and improve identification, treatment, and response protocols in their hospitals and clinics. Consider joining an anti-trafficking organization or committee such as with Health, Education, Advocacy, and Linkage (HEAL) Trafficking: https://healtrafficking.org/.
American Hospital Association. (2018). ICD-10-CM coding for human trafficking. Retrieved from https://www.aha.org/icd-10-cm-coding-human-trafficking-resource
Andrews, M. (2018, July 24). Hospitals gear up for new diagnosis: Human trafficking.National Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/07/24/631517533/hospitals-gear-up-for-new-diagnosis-human-trafficking
Dovydaitis, T. (2010). Human trafficking: The role of the health care provider. Journal of midwifery & women's health, 55(5), 462-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmwh.2009.12.017
Fink-Samnick, E. (2018, September 24). Human trafficking: New ICD-10 codes empower efforts to identify and aid victims. ICD10monitor. Retrieved from https://www.icd10monitor.com/human-trafficking-new-icd-10-codes-empower-efforts-to-identify-and-aid-victims
Heal Trafficking. (2018). Homepage. Retrieved from https://healtrafficking.org/