Must we Move to ICD10 – Short Answer is Yes

The short answer is yes – but I hear occasional stories and push back from clinicians and sometimes other healthcare staff – is it worth the spend and investment. Why not just wait for ICD-11 (Check out the beta draft of ICD-11 here). Why not just use SNOMED CT

For the individual doctor taking care of the patients they often see no direct benefit from ICD-10….or from SNOMED CT, LOINC, RxNorm, APR-DRG’s, ICD-9, APC’s, HCC’s, etc. But in the healthcare continuum that requires more than a single patient to be cared for and whole populations to be considered we need evidence and data to manage populations that has enough detail that has kept up with the explosion of medical knowledge. Yes capturing the codes may be difficult but the good news is there is technology to help clinicians to capture it at the point of care – anywhere and offers realtime feedback to the doctor with the unique and innovative Computer Assisted Physician Documentation (CAPD). ICD-10 is no longer to be feared but should be embraced as a bright new future that will start to code information in sufficient detail that is more representative of the complex nature of patients and their clinical condition. No longer grouped together in broad categories that do not adequately take account of the complex cases offering a much more nuanced view of the severity of illness.

So what is the difference between the two systems and what makes ICD-10 the right choice? Some of this relates to terminology and classification – nicely explained here by Dr Peter Johnson explaining the SNOMED CT system. As he says

Classification system,
A classification scheme could be thought of as a collection of buckets into which a care provider throws a particular concept or record. And since there can only be one bucket into which a concept fits, the process of labeling the buckets often leads to catch-all terms like: ‘Disease X, unspecified’ or ‘Y, not elsewhere classified’. As a result, accurately classifying records is rightly seen by most care providers as a separate process from record creation and is typically carried out by specially trained coders who know how to apply the process.

Terminology System
..a terminology allows the user to specify precisely what they want to record. Specifically, a terminology doesn’t have any ‘not elsewhere classified’ bucket terms, but is designed to have the terms that a user needs to record what actually happened.

Which brings me to the problem with SNOMED CT as a replacement for ICD-XX – clearly described by Carl Natale’s in his post: Why SNOMED cannot replace the ICD-10-CM/PCS code sets. As Carl rightly points out:

Physicians are going to have to learn how to communicate with EHRs — which will be based upon SNOMED — to comply with Meaningful Use. So the transition to SNOMED-CT already is in the works.

We do need more specific documentation but as a colleague of mine has pointed out this is not the onerous task that it first appears to be – much of the data is already information we capture as part of a normal clinical interaction and the additional data requirement may only be one clinical element.
For the construct of an ICD-10 code we have 7 characters made up as follows

  • Section,
  • Body System,
  • Root Operation,
  • Body Part,
  • Approach,
  • Device,
  • Qualifier

In a single specialty building up the code is part of the natural clinical content that we capture when documenting the patent encounter. The clinicians should not be expected to construct the code but does need to include all the details to allow the coding to be completed accurately. For example:

Open reduction internal fixation distal phalanx right index finger with K wire
contains everything necessary to code this as
0PST04Z – which is made up of:

  • 0 – Medical Surgical
  • P – Upper Bones
  • S – Reposition
  • T – Finger Phalanx R
  • 0 – Open
  • 4 – Internal Fixation Device
  • Z – No Qualifier

As Carl points out

Basically, ICD-10 codes aren’t the problem. It’s the specificity of documentation that will be required one way or another. SNOMED should make it easier to document to the required specificity. It is then up to the EHR system to convert that data to ICD information. Hopefully the physicians won’t know what level of ICD is being used. They will just need to know what needs to be recorded.

So what does this look like in the clinical setting – this video offers a peek into the new world of documentation and how Healthcare technology, Clinical Language Understanding and integrated solutions will start to ease the documentation burden, allowing clinicians to focus on care and the patient and not documentation coding


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