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More Harm Than Good? Diagnostic Codes for Child and Adult Abuse

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This study sought to understand the reasons for the lack of use of ICD diagnostic codes for child and adult abuse. New Jersey professionals were recruited to participate in three focus groups on child abuse, adult or primarily woman abuse, and elder abuse. Participants included health care providers, advocates from the community, and representatives of state agencies and the insurance industry. Concerns about coding abuse included further jeopardizing victims/patients, diagnostic uncertainty, and lack of resources. Members of the child abuse group were somewhat more receptive to coding abuse. Reasons to code, such as for documentation and reimbursement were discussed and rebutted. Most participants concluded that use of the abuse codes should be judicious because they have the potential to do more harm than good. More research is needed on the implications of coding for victims/patients along with medical education in the identification of abuse in general and coding abuse in particular.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2003

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  • Violence and Victims discusses theory, research, policy, and clinical practice in the area of interpersonal violence and victimization across such disciplines as psychology, sociology, criminology, law, medicine, nursing, psychiatry, and social work.

    The journal's 2014 Impact Factor is 0.858.
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