ICD-11 Digitizes Global Healthcare Coding Practices

The purpose underlying the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) manuals is to establish a common language to organize and identify diseases and their impacts on human lives. The recent release of ICD-11 promises to further enhance the understanding and control of global diseases. Transitioning to ICD-11 isn’t required until 2022, but medical coders will want to need to be aware that it’s coming.

ICD-11 will Enhance Global Health Efforts

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) was able to track in real time the spread of the Ebola virus across several African countries because those national health systems all classified the deadly disease using the Ebola code specified in ICD-10. At the time, the U.S. was still using ICD-9, which did not have a code for Ebola and made tracking the disease in America almost impossible. With the entire world embracing ICD-11, medical science will have an increasingly significant tool with which to understand and manage the global health care sector.

How ICD-11’s Framework Differs from ICD-10

ICD-11 is on the same framework as ICD-10, so those working in medical coding already have a feel for its structure and design. One of the primary reasons for revising ICD-10 into ICD-11, however, is to embrace today’s technological advancements.

ICD-11 is actually a database that supports the electronic health records (EHRs) that are currently in use in ICD-10. The newly digitized system offers interoperability between the ICD-11 database and the myriad of other medical libraries, which significantly enhances system functionality.

Accordingly, how it processes coding is different than before and will require additional training to master. Some changes introduced with ICD-11 are also notable:

  • Embodied in a web platform rather than a published manual, ICD-11 is designed to flex as medical discoveries emerge and develop. As future global health concerns evolve, so will the online content of ICD-11, which means there is no need for a future ICD-12.
  • The ICD-11 platform includes a search engine as well, which will be updated as events require. Medical professionals will be able to quickly find the resources that they need as well as receive regular updates as standards change.
  • The new ICD contains 26 chapters, including new sections devoted to sexual health (including gender incongruence), sleep-wake disorders, immune system conditions and even traditional medicine, which, to date, has no coverage in the ICD series.

ICD-11 will Cause More Coding Changes

One exciting benefit is that ICD-11 connects with most EHRs through the Systematic Nomenclature of Medicine and Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT) Foundation, so both the code set and the EHRs will link to the SNOMED CT.

Unfortunately, ICD-11 changes the coding systems themselves. Codes will have four characters before the decimal point (not the three found in ICD-10); the second position will always be a letter in ICD-11; and additional codes are used to add specificity to the base code, such as associated conditions or to further describe an injury. Notably, the new code version excludes the letters ‘O’ and ‘I’ to prevent confusing them with the numbers 0 and 1.

With approximately 55,000 unique codes, ICD-11 will significantly impact America’s medical coding and billing processes. Even though the implementation of the new system won’t happen until 2022, every health care professional should inform their billing staff that more changes to their existing processes are on the way. However, since the United States only recently adopted ICD-10 in October 2015, those billing units should find the transition to ICD-11 fairly easy to accomplish.