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A view of the front entrance to Huntington Hospital on Park Avenue in Huntington. File photo

Hospitals across the North Shore and the country have been adapting to an entirely new set of medical codes over the last two months, completely changing the system in which a patient’s diagnosis is detailed.

As of October, all hospitals across the United States switched to the ICD-10 system, which allows for more than 14,000 different codes and permits the tracking of many new diagnoses. ICD-10, an international medical classification system by the World Health Organization, requires more specificity than the previous code system. Doctors at North Shore facilities said they agreed that although it’s time-consuming and has slowed productivity, it is more beneficial to patients in the end.

Dr. Michael Grosso, chairman of medicine at Huntington Hospital said these new codes should help make it easier for symptoms of various diseases to be tracked.

According to Gross, preparation for the new code started two years ago with a required education program for all physicians that described what all the new codes meant.

“Physicians are being called upon to provide more specificity and detail,” Grosso said in a phone interview. He described the codes as a “vast extension” to what the hospital was previously using and said it should “improve the quality of medical records and increase the amount of information that researchers can obtain and make for the best care for patients.”

Grosso also said that understanding and learning the codes was an important first step, but ongoing feedback on how the codes are being adopted is equally important. A feedback program has been created at each hospital.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo
John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo

John Ruth, director of revenue integrity and interim chief compliance officer at Stony Brook University Hospital, said Stony Brook used outside resource companies with online courses to teach the new code to their physicians and coding staff.

Ruth said that a new code system was necessary, as the previous system, ICD-9, was created by WHO in the 1970s. He called ICD-10 a natural progression.

“There are a lot more codes for specific organ systems, muscles, muscle tendons and nerves than were required with ICD-9,” he said in a phone interview.

Ruth also said that ICD-9 was mostly comprised of three- and four-digit codes, and ICD-10 is up to seven digits in length, which makes the new coding more challenging but more valuable.

“If a patient has PTSD, we can assign a code from where he got it from, not just that he has it, which is important for planning his future and ongoing care,” Ruth said.

Stacie Colonna, associate director of inpatient coding at Stony Brook University Hospital, said there has been approximately a 30 percent decrease in staff productivity with the changeover to ICD-10 and a shortage of trained staff.

“I get 10 questions a day just from internal staff,” Colonna said. But she also noted that staff frequently asked daily questions about the old system as well. She said she expects productivity to improve in the near future.

At John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Joseph Ng said the staff went through web training, too. One-on-one training was also available if a clinician requested it.

Ng agreed specificity is both the pro and con of ICD-10. “Because it’s so specific, it really allows clinicians to hone in on what’s really going on with patients and be able to communicate better with one another,” Ng said in an email. “But because it’s so specific, sometimes it’s hard to find the right code, especially when it comes to procedures. The codes are not all inclusive.”

Looking forward, Grosso said the new system had a lot to offer for hospitals across the country because of the amount of information people could potentially learn from it.

“A number of private and government parties will benefit from the ability to look at more detailed hospital data,” Grosso said.

Stony Brook’s 100,000th baby Luca Michael Picarella cries in his mother’s arms at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

It’s a boy. It’s also a major milestone.

Katie Picarella of Rocky Point was wheeled into the room with her new bundle of joy and her husband Mike and daughter Gianna, 5, to celebrate the birth of Stony Brook Hospital’s 100,000th baby, Luca Michael Picarella on Thursday, Aug. 20. And by the time she was wheeled out, she had much more than a new member to her family.

The hospital presented blue cupcakes surrounded several pink cupcakes that spelled “100K,” in the Stony Brook University Hospital’s lobby in celebration of the event.

Todd Griffin, chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, said he expected Katie Picarella to give birth near the end of August, and he was right. Attending OB/GYN and former Stony Brook student Julie Welischar delivered Luca the morning of Monday, Aug. 17.

Until a week ago the Picarella family was unaware of the news that Stony Brook was expecting its 100,000th birth.

Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley
Members of the hospital arranged blue and pink cupcakes to celebrate the 100,00th birth at the Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo By Giselle Barkley

“A friend of ours told us [that they] had been following this,” Mike Picarella said. “I started looking at it and [the friend] said, ‘you guys are getting close. It’d be funny if you guys are the couple.’”

But the expecting father said he was still surprised when the doctors informed him that his newborn son was the 100,000th baby.

The family didn’t just leave with their new baby boy, they also left with a gift basket, which awarded the Picarella family with $10,000 scholarship from the Island Federal Credit Union, a $2,500 scholarship toward tuition at the North Shore Montessori School, a $500 shopping spree among other gifts for the parents and their newborn.

Luca’s older sister Gianna, who was also delivered at Stony Brook, was also awarded with a brand new American Girl doll.

“Truly from the bottom of our hearts and all of our family’s hearts, we greatly appreciate it,” Mike Picarella said.

The entire Picarella family said they were thankful for the gifts and shocked by the news that they were the couple who birthed the 100,000th baby.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us,” Katie Picarella said when speaking to the media. According to Picarella, the birth was scheduled for Friday after doctors realized Picarella’s baby would come before the end of August. But Picarella rescheduled the C-section delivery date because she wanted to have enough time to recover in order to attend her daughter’s Kindergarten screening.

The family of four also had the opportunity of meeting Jeff Solomon, who was the first baby born at Stony brook University Hospital on May 28, 1980 at 8:15 a.m. Solomon’s father Bob Solomon and step-mother Hope also attended the conference and met the family.

Before the family prepared to go home, Griffin highlighted the importance of the birth.

“For years the number of births on long island have been going down,” Griffin said. “We’re actually starting to see in the last year or two that the births have been going up.”

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File photo

Stony Brook Medicine announced on Friday that the Eastern Long Island Hospital board of directors has voted unanimously to approve an affiliation with Stony Brook University Hospital, subject to the successful completion of the definitive agreement and all regulatory and other approvals.

The decision was ruled an important first step toward advancing Stony Brook’s collaboration to ensure North Fork residents have greater access to high-quality care, according to Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president for Health Sciences and dean of the Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

“We are grateful to SUNY’s visionary leadership in its support of our continued work to establish agreements with community hospitals in Suffolk County for the care of Long Island residents,” said Reuven Pasternak, chief executive officer for Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president for health systems at Stony Brook Medicine.

Thomas E. Murray Jr., chairman of the Eastern Long Island Hospital board of trustees said his group had been deliberating over the past several months on finding a strategic partner. He said Stony Brook best fulfilled the board’s mission to best address what he called the evolving health needs of his eastern community.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he could not be more pleased with the news, given his experience working to move the hospital forward.

“Throughout my tenure, I have worked hard to make certain that quality, affordable medical services are accessible to residents throughout my district,” he said. “This unanimous decision ensures that people on the North Fork and Shelter Island will continue to receive expert medical care close to home.”

Stony Brook and Eastern Long Island will immediately initiate a collaborative planning effort to develop a long-term strategic plan to ensure current and future health care needs are addressed.

“While the delivery of health care and especially hospital care is rapidly changing, becoming a part of Stony Brook University Hospital will allow Eastern Long Island Hospital to make this complex transition while continuing to carry out our long-time promise to the community. The hospital has been here for 110 years and this affiliation will ensure that the health care needs of the community are met for years to come,” said Paul J. Connor, III, president and CEO of Eastern Long Island Hospital.