Many health insurers (public and private) reimburse doctors based on the patient’s diagnosis. If you treat a patient for a more severe illness during a inpatient stay, Medicare pays you more money. Physicians use procedures to bill insurers for the care they provided.
How do insurers know the patient’s diagnosis and the procedures providers perform? The answer is the International Classification of Disease ( ICD ) taxonomy. Currently, this system is in its ninth iteration, but it will soon be replaced by ICD-10 (the tenth revision) codes. By January 1, 2012, CMS will mandate that all electronic health record transaction use the ICD-10 system and by October 1, 2013 providers will all have to use the ICD-10 diagnosis and procedure codes for their claim submissions .
What’s new about the ICD-10 compared to the ICD-9? Read more below to find out.
For example, if a patient is seen for treatment of a burn on the right arm, the ICD-9 diagnosis code does not distinguish that the burn is on the right arm. If the patient is seen a few weeks later for another burn on the left arm, the same ICD-9 diagnosis code would be reported. Additional documentation would likely be required for a claim for the treatment to explain that the burn treated at this time is a different burn from the one that was treated previously. In the ICD-10 diagnosis code set, characters in the code identify right versus left, initial encounter versus subsequent encounter, and other clinical information.
68,000 available codes
First digit may be alpha (E or V) or numeric; digits 2-5 are numeric
Digit 1 is alpha; digits 2 and 3 are numeric; digits 4-7 are alpha or numeric
Lack laterality (left vs. right)
The ICD-10 code structure can be characterized as follows:
Characters 1-3 – Category
Characters 4-6 – Etiology, anatomic site, severity, or other clinical detail
Characters 7 – Extension
S52 Fracture of forearm
S52.5 Fracture of lower end of radius
S52.52 Torus fracture of lower end of radius
S52.521 Torus fracture of lower end of right radius
S52.521A Torus fracture of lower end of right radius, initial encounter for closed fracture
In this example, S52 is the category, the sixth category indicates laterality (i.e., 1=right), and the seventh character that this is the initial encounter.
Whereas the diagnosis codes describe the patient’s conditions, procedure codes describe the services the physiican provides. In the new ICD-10 procedure coding system, each digit of the procedure code tells you a different piece of information. Specifically,
1st digit: Name of Section
2nd digit: Body System
3rd digit: Root Operation
4th digit: Body Part
5th digit: Approach
6th Digit: Device
7th Digit: Qualifier
For example, the code for right knee joint replacement is 0SRC0JZ which means the following:
0 = Medical and Surgical Section
S = Lower Joints
R = Replacement
D = Knee Joint, Right
0 = Open
J = Synthetic Substitute
Z = No Qualifier
Below is a chart comaring the ICD-9 and ICD-10 procedure codes.
3-4 numbers in length
7 alpha-numeric characters in length
Approximately 87,000 codes available
Lacks descriptions of methodology and approach for procedures
Contains descriptions of methodology and approach for procedures
Source: American Medical Association (AMA) Fact Sheet, “The Differences between ICD-9 and ICD-10,” June 2, 2010.