Q&A: Why The U.S. Actually Needs Those Crazy ICD-10 Codes

Tom Sullivan | Government Health IT | July 23, 2013

For a bit of perspective on medical coding: ICD-9 was developed in the 1970’s — in the 70’s people could smoke in the hospital.

Fast forward to 2012 and the raft of ICD-10 jokes began, hitting the big time when the Wall Street Journal called out some of the ostensibly zany codes, like injuries caused by macaws, and countless other publications followed suit with jabs about second encounters with lampposts, flaming waterskis, and more. Adding to the fun, certain Congressmen cracked jokes of their own.

But lost amid the comedy, particularly on the national level, has been anyone publicly challenging those punchlines and explaining exactly why the U.S. as a nation really needs the new code sets.

Government Health IT Editor Tom Sullivan spoke with Richard Averill, senior vice president of clinical and economic research at 3M Health Information Systems about the reason for macaw-related codes, population health implications of more specific diagnostic and procedural data that have the potential to create actionable information for things like sports related injuries — and why ICD-10 is just like any other dictionary.