Mercer Health makes every effort to maintain transparency and provide accurate information about COVID-19. Each week, we will be asking our local experts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from the community.
Q: What different types of tests are there for COVID-19 and what is used at Mercer Health?
A: There are a variety of different tests available for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. All of the testing to date performed through Mercer Health has been a type of methodology called nucleic acid amplification, which includes PCR. PCR testing is a highly sensitive method and considered the current gold standard for COVID -19 testing.
False positives are exceedingly rare and we are not aware of any false positives locally. False negatives can occur depending on where the patient is in the disease course and exactly which nucleic acid amplification test is used.
Antigen tests, rapid tests that detect certain proteins that are part of the virus, have not been used at Mercer Health for diagnosing COVID-19. Mercer Health continues to offer reliable testing and advocates for increased supplies locally to provide timely results. — Dr. Shelly Odronic, Laboratory Director
Q: I have avoided going to the doctor, getting my routine labs, etc. When will it be safe to return?
A: After temporarily suspending some services and working through the ever-changing restrictions and recommendations, we have developed strategies for providing care safely in the midst of COVID-19. As a result, all Mercer Health services are now fully operational.
If you need treatment for health conditions or routine health services, we encourage you not to delay care further. Delaying care can lead to unfortunate unintended consequences. We are confident that our enhanced safety measures, including heightened disinfectant procedures, phone and onsite pre-screenings, social distancing, masking and testing for COVID-19 as appropriate, allow you to safely return to the hospital and our offices. – Philip Masser, MD, Family Physician
Q: How long do I need to quarantine?
A: According to the CDC, people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19—excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months—need to quarantine for 14 days after the last contact with a person who has COVID-19. Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. For more information, please visit cdc.gov
. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Q: I have recovered from COVID and want to donate plasma. Where can I go?
A: Local community members who are fully recovered from a verified COVID diagnosis who are interested in donating their plasma can register online with the Red Cross. They will contact you to verify your eligibility and direct you to the nearest donor center. Another option for donating plasma is through Community Blood Center, which is located in Dayton. More information is available online at Red Cross and Community Blood Center.
Q: How are reimbursements determined for COVID-19 inpatient services?
A: Reimbursement for hospital inpatient services are often determined by medical coding called DRGs (diagnosis-related groups), especially for government payers. DRGs provide a means of relating the type of patients a hospital treats to the costs typically incurred by the hospital and categorize patients with respect to diagnosis, treatment and length of hospital stay. DRGs are assigned by a complex “grouper” program based on ICD (International Classification of Diseases) diagnoses, procedures, age, sex, discharge status, and the presence of complications or comorbidities. Simply, the DRG system works to standardize reimbursements into related groups in relation to the complexity of the diagnosis and of care provided. For example, treatment and average costs for pneumonia is going to be different than treatment and average costs for a heart attack.
COVID-19 was not previously diagnosed therefore it did not have a unique DRG code to appropriately reflect average costs and reimbursement to treat. In order to quickly address the situation and provide continuity in reimbursement from one hospital to another and therefore fair treatment of patients, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided an adjusted payment to the basic respiratory DRG for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 due to the often increased costs to treat, specifically patients with Medicare payers. However, this does not often apply to commercial insurances because unlike Medicare, commercial payer reimbursements are based on negotiated rates. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, the CDC released official Coding and Reporting Guidelines for COVID-19, which can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/…/icd/COVID-19-guidelines-final.pdf
. In addition, an emergency ICD-10 code of ‘U07.1 COVID-19, virus identified’ has been assigned to a disease diagnosis of COVID-19 confirmed by laboratory testing. Code U07.1 is not assigned for “suspected,” “possible,” “probable,” or “inconclusive” COVID-19. – Kris Siefring, Director of Patient Accounts at Mercer Health