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American Psychiatric Association response

June 26, 2015
by Saul Levin, MD, MPA
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Saul Levin, MD

The Friday, June 19, story on Virginia Medicaid essentially abandoning DSM’s diagnostic codes was inaccurate and misleading to physicians in Virginia. Magellan, which manages mental health services for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, did not announce that doctors should abandon the DSM-5 diagnostic code sets. Its announcement simply reinforced what doctors had long known, that they will be required on October  1 to switch from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM codes for the purpose of medical billing. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, which contains the ICD-10-CM codes, should continue to be used by physicians as it is the most current medical guide for diagnosing mental disorders.

The ICD-10-CM cannot be used to assist a clinician in arriving at an appropriate diagnosis; it merely lists the names of illnesses and their codes. DSM is the only official manual that provides behavioral health clinicians with everything they need to arrive at an accurate diagnosis, including diagnostic criteria, information about the disorder, and the corresponding ICD-10-CM code.  The ICD and the DSM are complementary to each other. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently posted a statement on its website that said it “is expected” that clinicians may continue to base their diagnostic decisions on the DSM-5.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA), the publisher of the DSM-5, has guidance available at to help clinicians prepare for the switchover to the ICD-10-CM, but doctors should rest assured that the DSM-5 is and will continue to be the guiding document when it comes to diagnosing mental illness.

Saul Levin is the CEO and medical director of The American Psychiatric Association.