ICD Codes

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011 18:49

Are you familiar with the acronym ICD? Did you know that changes are coming for the transition to the latest ICD codes in the United States? Well let me give you a little background information on ICD and further down in this article you’ll find more information about the changes occuring. ICD stands for International Classification of Diseases. The codes are alphanumeric designations given to every diagnosis, description of symptoms and cause of death attributed to human beings. These classifications are developed, monitored and copyrighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, the National Center for Health Statistics (HCHS) and part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees all changes and modifications to the ICD codes, in cooperation with WHO.

Do you remember going to the doctor and at the end of your visit they hand you a paper with your treatment or diagnosis? Well, that piece of paper most often lists the ICD codes for your visit. Now, lets not get these codes confused with CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes. Those are used for billing purposes. ICD codes mean that every medical professional in the United States and many other parts of the world will understand the diagnosis. If the diagnosis is for something acute, something that goes away with treatment, then the ICD code will be less important. It will stay on record, but it won’t affect future care. However, if you are diagnosed with a chronic or lifelong problem, like heart disease, then the ICD code will follow you for most of your medical care and help healthcare providers make determinations about you care. Also, keep in mind that there are several ICD code sets. An example is ICD-9-CM or ICD-9-CM 486. The CM means “clinical modification”. It is used by hospitals and other facilities to describe any health challenges a patient has.

ICD codes first originated in France back in 1893 by a physician named Jacques Bertillion. They were called the Bertillion Classification of Causes of Death. In 1898, they were adopted in the United States, thus ICD-1 was the first version of code numbers. You may be wondering “why do the codes change”? As medical science progresses and new diagnoses are developed, named and described, the code lists have been updated. The most current code list used in the United States to date is ICD-9. However, ICD-10 is being utilized by several countries outside the US, but the US is transitioning and has been given a compliance date of October 1, 2013 by the CMS.

Are you preparing for the ICD-9 to ICD-10 change? As I understand it, the scope and complexity of the transition are significant and require a well-planned and well managed implementation process. Some of the differences to be aware of are listed below:

ICD-9ICD-10
3-5 characters in length3-7 characters in length
Approximately 13,000 codesApproximately 68,000 available codes
First digit may be alpha (E or V) or numeric; digits 2-5 are numericDigit 1 is alpha; digits 2 and 3 are numeric; digits 4-7 are alpha or numeric
Limited space for adding new codesFlexible for adding new codes
Lacks detailVery specific
Lacks lateralityHas laterality (i.e., codes identifying right vs. left)

The list above just names a few of the changes. For a more in depth look at the differences go to: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/399/icd10-icd9-differences-fact-sheet.pdf.

Other things to know about the transition:

ICD codes involve so much more information than what I’ve provided in this article, so be sure to check out the links below or do further research.

~ Tosha Miles

Resources:
http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/en/
http://www.cms.gov/ICD10/01_Overview.asp
http:/patients.about.com/od/medicalcodes/a/icdcodes.htm?p=1
http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/399/icd10-icd9-differences-fact-sheet.pdf.