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Defining the “7th Character”

Defining the “7th Character”
October 14, 2015 Tamra Lahmer

…and there it was!  My new “final” ICD-10-CM book!  Thirty-seven years of diagnosis coding history, now replaced with new codes, new formats, new guidelines and most of all, a new 7th character.


During the last several months, I have had the privilege of working with many fine physicians and their staff at local hospitals and practices by providing ICD-10 training by specialty.  I can say by far that the 7th character has been the biggest menace within the new classification, and when the guidelines revised the verbiage in the final publication from the previous draft versions, it threw another curveball to us all.


Granted, the 7th character will affect some specialties more than others, but ALL providers have the possibility of a patient having an adverse effect to a prescription drug or a complication of care.  The 7th character applies to these encounters as well as injuries, which by far have a more complex application.  In an effort to provide simplified guidance on the 7th character, I have published a document outlining the interpretation of the Official Guidelines for the use of the 7th character, and disseminated this to my MediQuick Physician Services clients.  Offered here is that document for your use and distribution as needed to help our industry work through the perils of the 7th character.


ICD-10 is here and thankfully, the health care industry did not come to its projected end (I keep remembering the Y2K worries!)  Now, we must simply dig deep into the guidelines, and shine for our clients and employers by being knowledgeable and up-to-date on the new codes and their correct use, which is our duty as certified coders!

Success is a journey, not a destination.

Tamra R. Lahmer, CPC, CPMA, CPC-I, CCS-P, MCS-P

AAPC Approved ICD-10 Trainer

Director, Texas Career Center