Explaining ICD-9 and ICD-10 Codes

Coughing, fever, headache, insomnia—there are codes for that! In fact, with the new advances in ICD coding technology, there are codes for over 68,000 symptoms and diagnoses (American College of Radiology). While ICD codes are common terminology in the fast paced healthcare industry, those unfamiliar often face misconceptions about the importance of these codes and what they mean for their health. Until now…

What are ICD Codes?

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a medical coding system incorporated by the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) to set the diagnostic classification standard for all clinical and research purposes. The cornerstone of medical billing and coding, ICD codes are alphanumeric designations assigned to each diagnosis, symptom description, and cause of death attributed to human beings. Thus, each diagnosis a patient is given is assigned an ICD code to represent the diagnosis. These codes act as universal explanations for medical professionals in the United States and many other parts of the world.

Although never officially adopted, the general arrangement of this coding system dates as far back to a disease classification system proposed by a medical statistician at the General Register Office of England and Wales in 1837.  The system undergoes revisions to keep pace with advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

From ICD-9 to ICD-10

In 1979, the United States implemented the ICD-9 code release, and transitioned to ICD-10 with full compliance on October 1, 2015. The WHO has already begun revisions towards the ICD-11.

Today, ICD-10 codes are actively used by physicians, coders, health information managers, nurses, and other healthcare providers to assist in storing and retrieving diagnostic information. ICD-10 features nearly 19 times as many procedure codes and 5 times as many diagnosis codes as ICD-9, and is composed of alphanumeric categories instead of numeric ones. The greater level of detail in the new coding includes laterality, severity, and complexity of disease conditions, aiding in more precise identification and tracking of certain diseases. Some of the new ICD-10 features include enhanced data quality in tracking public health conditions, improved data for epidemiological research, and a systematic approach to measure the outcomes and care provided to patients. These are especially useful in making clinical decisions, identifying fraud and abuse, designing payment systems, and processing claims.

Redi-Data makes it possible to microtarget your healthcare professional audience. Starting with practitioner specialty or prescriber data, leverage our robust data on procedures performed and diagnoses made using ICD-9/ICD-10 codes to created refined mailing and email physician lists for more relevant and specific communications.