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Three Ways ICD-10 Is Better Than ICD-9

There is a lot of trepidation with a number of unknowns regarding the new coding protocol. But the CMS says the US medical community has to take its medicine, no matter how bitter. That’s why the regulatory body has vowed to not issue any more extensions to the deadline as it has in the past. This time, everyone must take the bull by the horns and accept the fact that ICD-10 will become reality October 1, 2015. But for all the lamenting going on about ICD-10, there are actually a number of ways it is better than ICD-9, in fact in some cases by leaps and bounds. So let’s look at why adopting ICD-10 is actually embracing something that’s better, not just more complex.


This is the crux of the matter when it comes to discussing the challenge of adopting ICD-10. Having 68,000 codes with the opportunity to add even more sounds like a recipe for disaster. “How will practitioners manage?” is the number one concern. In ICD-9, the number of codes were approximately 16,000 and the structure made it impossible to add to this number. So as medicine advanced, ICD-9 remained too retro to keep up. Hence the need for a new coding structure to accommodate new data collection. Now instead of stating a patient simply has back pain, you can be more specific as to what sort of back pain the patient has and where. Diagnostically speaking, this is an incredible tool for doctors in building a history for patients that will also benefit them as they seek medical help later in their lives.


In close relation to the number of codes is the quality of data that ICD-10 will generate. ICD-9 had many capabilities, but ICD-10 has the potential to generate even more comprehensive data that can be analyzed on a national level. This is crucial information that can be used to track diseases, prevalence rates, and other dynamics.


ICD-9 did not have any facility to add bespoke codes or report unsupported diagnostic results, which is something ICD-10 does very well. In the routine course of a patient encounter, doctors will often face diagnostic situations that are neither here nor there. This presented a challenge with ICD-9 as the doctor had to approximate the closest code that related to the condition. With ICD-10, the new system supports custom codes, which the doctor can input and later support with documentation during evaluations.  


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