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Hospital-Acquired Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection: Documentation and Coding Issues May Reduce Financial Impact of Medicare's New Payment Policy

  • Jennifer Meddings (a1), Sanjay Saint (a1) (a2) and Laurence F. McMahon (a1)



To evaluate whether hospital-acquired catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CA-UTIs) are accurately documented in discharge records with the use of International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis codes so that nonpayment is triggered, as mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital-Acquired Conditions Initiative.


We conducted a retrospective medical record review of 80 randomly selected adult discharges from May 2006 through September 2007 from the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) with secondary-diagnosis urinary tract infections (UTIs). One physician-abstractor reviewed each record to categorize UTIs as catheter associated and/or hospital acquired; these results (considered “gold standard”) were compared with diagnosis codes assigned by hospital coders. Annual use of the catheter association code (996.64) by UMHS coders was compared with state and US rates by using Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data.


Patient mean age was 58 years; 56 (70%) were women; median length of hospital stay was 6 days; 50 patients (62%) used urinary catheters during hospitalization. Hospital coders had listed 20 secondary-diagnosis UTIs (25%) as hospital acquired, whereas physician-abstractors indicated that 37 (46%) were hospital acquired. Hospital coders had identified no CA-UTIs (code 996.64 was never used), whereas physician-abstractors identified 36 CA-UTIs (45%; 28 hospital acquired and 8 present on admission). Catheter use often was evident only from nursing notes, which, unlike physician notes, cannot be used by coders to assign discharge codes. State and US annual rates of 996.64 coding (~1% of secondary-diagnosis UTIs) were similar to those at UMHS.


Hospital coders rarely use the catheter association code needed to identify CA-UTI among secondary-diagnosis UTIs. Coders often listed a UTI as present on admission, although the medical record indicated that it was hospital acquired. Because coding of hospital-acquired CA-UTI seems to be fraught with error, nonpayment according to CMS policy may not reliably occur.


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