Navigating Skin Check ICD-10 Codes

March 14, 2024

Navigating Skin Check ICD-10 Codes

ICD-10 coding for skin checks can be a hassle, but accurate billing and coding is an essential part for both your reimbursement and patient care management – which all needs to be done in compliance with healthcare regulations.

Sounds like a headache?

Let’s check out how to navigate the tricky waters of ICD-10 codes for skin checks, and show you a couple ways to make your life as a physician easier (including outsourcing billing and coding to a fantastic company like us…not to brag).

Key Takeaways:

  • Proper use of ICD-10 codes like Z12.83 ensures effective billing, patient care continuity, and compliance with healthcare regulations.
  • Codes like Z85.820 for malignant melanoma and Z85.821 for Merkel cell carcinoma document a patient’s history, guiding targeted screenings and treatments.
  • Dermatology practices face challenges like keeping up with ICD-10 updates and ensuring specificity in coding, resulting in lost revenue and affected patient care. 

The Crucial Role of ICD-10 Codes in Dermatology

ICD-10 codes provide a standardized system for coding medical conditions and treatments. 

In dermatology, ICD-10 codes allow you to accurately document skin conditions, treatments, and check-ups, allowing for clear communication among healthcare providers and insurers.

Why Accurate ICD-10 Coding Matters

The impact of accurate ICD-10 coding affects your practice in multiple ways:

  • Billing & Reimbursement: Accurate coding ensures that dermatology practices are properly reimbursed for the services provided. Miscode a procedure, and the practice might face denied claims or delays in payment – not good for your wallet!
  • Patient Care: Correct codes support effective patient management by enabling clear documentation of the patient’s medical history, which is crucial for ongoing patient care.
  • Compliance: Healthcare providers are legally required to use accurate coding. Inaccuracies can lead to audits, penalties, and in some cases, legal action – let’s try and avoid that!

Consequences of Incorrect Coding

You’ve probably experienced it yourself – incorrect coding is unfortunately more common than people think! And that can create a bunch of problems, impacting both you (the provider) and the patients. 

For you, incorrect coding may mean:

  • Unpaid claims.
  • Legal issues.
  • Wasted administrative time correcting errors.

For patients, it may mean:

  • Issues with insurance coverage.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Potentially compromised care due to miscommunication about their health history.

And we get it – you’re busy taking care of your patients, so coding likely isn’t at the top of your mind and mistakes happen.

Luckily, people like us can take care of that completely; you take care of your patients, and we’ll take care of the rest

Key ICD-10 Codes for Skin Checks

Your dermatology practice likely utilizes a variety of ICD-10 codes to accurately document skin exams.

Each of these serves a specific purpose in patient care and billing, with two of the key codes being:

  • Z12.83: Encounter for screening for malignant neoplasms of the skin. This code is generally used for skin cancer screening exams, indicating a preventive check with no current diagnosis of skin cancer.
  • L98.9: Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorder, unspecified. While less specific, this code might be used when a patient presents with a skin condition that doesn’t fit more precise coding at the time of visit.

Understanding Personal History Codes in Dermatology

The ICD-10 offers specific codes pertaining to a patient’s personal history of skin conditions, which aid in keeping precise medical records and billing processes. 

Here’s a brief overview of some of those codes:

Z85.820: Personal History of Malignant Melanoma of Skin

This code is used when a patient has a history of malignant melanoma, indicating they have been treated for melanoma in the past. It’s crucial for monitoring and preventive strategies in dermatological care.

Z85.821: Personal History of Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive skin cancer. The code Z85.821 documents a patient’s history with this condition, signaling the need for diligent surveillance for recurrence or new cancers.

Z86.008: Personal History of In-Situ Neoplasm of Other Site

This code is utilized for patients who have a history of an in-situ neoplasm (a pre-cancerous condition) in locations not specified by other codes. It’s important for indicating a heightened risk of cancer development.

Z86.018: Personal History of Other Benign Neoplasm

For patients with a history of benign neoplasms (non-cancerous tumors), Z86.018 is used. Documenting this history aids in differential diagnosis and treatment planning for new or related conditions.

Z87.2: Personal History of Diseases of the Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue

This broad code encompasses any personal history of skin and subcutaneous tissue diseases, ranging from infections to non-cancerous disorders. It provides a general context for the patient’s dermatological history.

Z85.828: Personal History of Other Malignant Neoplasm of Skin

When a patient has a history of skin cancers other than melanoma or Merkel cell carcinoma, Z85.828 is the appropriate code. It alerts healthcare providers to the increased risk of skin cancer recurrence.

The Importance of Accurate Coding for Skin Cancer Screening

A dermatologist checking a patient's skin around her face.

Here’s how specific ICD-10 codes relate to patients with a history of skin conditions, underlining the significance of these screenings:

  • Z85.820 (Personal History of Malignant Melanoma of Skin) and Z85.821 (Personal History of Merkel Cell Carcinoma) are critical for patients previously diagnosed and treated for these conditions, highlighting the need for regular skin cancer screenings.
  • Codes like Z87.2 (Personal History of Diseases of the Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue) indicate a broader history of skin conditions, which may necessitate more frequent skin cancer screenings as part of the patient’s preventive care strategy.

By accurately coding for skin cancer screenings and related personal history, your dermatology practice plays a massively important role in ongoing cancer surveillance, early detection, and optimizing patient outcomes.

Common Challenges in Dermatology Billing and Coding

Even with a comprehensive coding system like ICD-10, dermatology practices face several coding-related challenges:

Staying Current with ICD-10 Updates

The ICD-10 code set is regularly updated to reflect advancements in medical knowledge and technology. 

Keeping up with these changes is key for maintaining coding accuracy – but can be challenging for busy dermatology practices – which is something we can help with!

Specificity & Accuracy Challenges

Choosing the correct ICD-10 code requires a detailed understanding of the patient’s condition and the reason for the visit. 

The specificity of the code chosen can significantly impact billing and insurance reimbursement, as well as patient care continuity.

Documentation Hurdles

Thorough documentation is essential for supporting the use of specific ICD-10 codes. 

However, ensuring detailed and accurate documentation can be time-consuming and may require additional training for healthcare providers.

Best Practices for Navigating Skin Check ICD-10 Codes

There are obviously a ton of codes that dermatology practices have to keep up with (e.g. CPT code 99214 for level 4 established patient procedures), and understanding what codes to use and when can be a tricky process.

But don’t worry, there are a couple things you can do to stay on top of things:

Regular Training & Education

Ongoing education for all staff members on the latest ICD-10 updates and coding best practices is essential. 

This can include in-house training sessions, online courses, or workshops offered by professional coding organizations.

Leveraging Technology & Software

Advanced billing and coding software can help dermatology practices stay current with ICD-10 updates and improve coding accuracy. 

Many software solutions also offer features that streamline documentation, making things easier on you wonderful healthcare providers.

Auditing & Quality Checks

Regular audits of coding practices can identify areas for improvement and help prevent coding errors before they lead to denied claims or compliance issues. 

Feedback from these audits can be used to inform additional training and process adjustments.

Outsourcing Coding Needs

All those things above can be taken care of from outside of your practice – with a company like us!

Because we specifically cater to dermatologists like yourself, our services are the exact solution to all your billing, coding, dermatology revenue cycle management, business development, and operational needs. 

Send us a message and let’s get your practice to the next level!

Success Stories

Many dermatology practices have transformed their billing and coding processes with our help, experiencing:

  • Reduced claim denials and quicker reimbursements due to improved coding accuracy.
  • Enhanced operational efficiency, allowing providers to focus more on patient care than administrative tasks.
  • Increased confidence among staff in their coding and billing practices, supported by expert advice and state-of-the-art tools.

But don’t just take our word for it – let us show you!


Accurate coding, particularly with codes like Z12.83 for skin cancer screenings, is essential for patient care and the financial health of practices. 

Challenges in coding accuracy and staying updated can be daunting, but prioritizing proper training, technology, and coding experts is a great way to streamline the process – plus, it helps patients get the most important thing: your undivided attention.


What is the ICD-10 code for a skin exam?

The ICD-10 code typically used for a skin exam aimed at screening for skin cancer is Z12.83. This code is specifically for encounters screening for malignant neoplasms of the skin.

What is the ICD-10 code for Dermatology unspecified?

For unspecified dermatology conditions, the ICD-10 code L98.9 (which represents skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders, unspecified) is often used.

What is the procedure code for a skin check?

Procedure codes for skin checks can vary based on the specific nature of the examination. However, CPT codes for new patient visits (99201-99205) or established patient visits (99211-99215) are commonly used based on the visit’s complexity and documentation.

What does medical code Z13.89 mean?

The ICD-10 code Z13.89 represents an encounter for screening for other disorders. It’s a general code that can apply to screenings not specified under other categories.

What is the ICD-10 code for skin changes?

ICD-10 code L98.8 is used for other specified skin disorders, which may include various skin changes not classified under more specific conditions.

What is the ICD-10 code for a benign skin exam?

There isn’t a specific “benign skin exam” ICD-10 code. Codes would be selected based on findings, such as L82.1 for seborrheic keratosis, if relevant.

What is the ICD-10 code for skin infection unspecified?

For an unspecified skin infection, the ICD-10 code L08.9 is used, indicating a local infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that isn’t specified elsewhere.

What is the medical code for dermatology?

Dermatology doesn’t have a singular “medical code,” as it encompasses a wide range of conditions each with specific ICD-10 codes. For billing purposes, practices use both ICD-10 codes for diagnoses and CPT codes for procedures.

What is a skin check called?

A skin check, particularly when screening for skin cancer, is often referred to medically as a “dermatological examination” or “skin cancer screening.” The ICD-10 code Z12.83 is used for such screenings.

What is the CPT code for a full body dermatology exam?

For a full body dermatology exam, the specific CPT code used can vary. Generally, E/M codes like 99204 (new patient) or 99214 (established patient) might be selected based on the exam’s detail and complexity.

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