Feeling Better About ICD-10

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , January 13, 2012
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ICD-10 will increase the number of procedure codes from 4,000 to 72,000, and the number of diagnosis codes from 14,000 to 69,000.  Sue Bowman, one of several ICD-10 cognoscenti who shared their expertise with me, says most physician practices will use only a small set of these codes, so it's really not so draconian.

So tune out all the sobbing, screaming, and procrastinating and focus on 10 reasons why ICD-10 will prove to be a good thing, eventually.

1. Updates terminology and specificity
ICD-9 was developed in 1979, a time when terms like laparoscopic, endoscopic, or thoracoscopic were unheard of in surgical suites. "Our ICD-9 system is ancient," says Bowman, director of coding policy and compliance for the American Health Information Management Association. Take the structure of disease management codes for asthma, she says. "It's either intrinsic or extrinsic asthma, which doesn't match the clinical classification currently in use, that is persistent, or intermittent," or any number of other types.

"When you think about the fact that this system is now over 30 years old, and you think of the state of medicine in the 1970s ... you realize it's not surprising that there's a lot of these problems [within ICD-9] that structurally just can't be fixed," she says.

2. Improves public health tracking
ICD-10 improves the ability of public health officials to track diseases and threats, dangerous settings, and even acts of bioterrorism that might otherwise go unrecognized. It "is more specific and fully captures more of the public health diseases examined than ICD-9," says a paper by Valerie J.M. Watzlaf, professor of health information and management at the University of Pittsburgh.

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