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Social risk factor documentation in emergency departments

Molina MF, Pantell MS, Gottlieb LM
Ann Emerg Med

STUDY OBJECTIVE: Social Z codes are International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification codes that provide one way of documenting social risk factors in electronic health records. Despite the utility and availability of these codes, no study has examined social Z code documentation prevalence in emergency department (ED) settings. METHODS: In this descriptive, cross-sectional study of all ED visits included in the 2018 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, we estimated the prevalence of social Z code documentation and used logistic regression to examine the association between documentation and patient and hospital characteristics. RESULTS: Of more than 35.8 million adult and pediatric ED visits, there was a 1.21% weighted prevalence (n=452,499) of at least 1 documented social Z code. Social Z codes were significantly more likely to be documented in ED visits among patients aged 35 to 64 compared to patients aged 18 to 34 (18.6/1000 [16.9 to 20.4] versus 12.7/1000 [11.5 to 14.0], odds ratio (OR) 1.47 [1.42 to 1.53]), male patients (16.6/1000 [15.1 to 18.2] versus female 8.5/1000 [7.8 to 9.2], OR 1.97 [1.89 to 2.06]), patients with Medicaid compared to patients with private insurance (15.9/1000 [14.4 to 17.6] versus (6.6/1000 [6.0 to 7.2], OR 2.45 [1.30 to 1.63]), and patients who had a Charlson Comorbidity Index‚Č•1 compared to those with a Charlson Comorbidity Index of 0 (ranges 15.0 to 16.6/1000 versus 10.6/1000 [9.6 to 11.7], ORs ranging 1.43 to 1.58). ED visits with a primary diagnosis of mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental illness had the strongest positive association with social Z code documentation (85.6/1000 [78.4 to 93.4], OR 10.75 [9.88 to 11.70]) compared to ED visits without this primary diagnosis. CONCLUSION: We found a very low prevalence of social Z code documentation in ED visits nationwide. More systematic social Z code documentation could support targeted social interventions, social risk payment adjustments, and future policy reforms.

Molina MF, Pantell MS, Gottlieb LM. Social risk factor documentation in emergency departments Ann Emerg Med. 2022 Oct 6:S0196-0644(22)00528-5. DOI:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2022.07.027. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36210245

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Peer Reviewed Research
Social Determinant of Health
Criminal Justice
Economic Security
Health Care Access
Housing Stability
Social Support/Social Isolation
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Other Study Design