On Oct. 1, hospitals nationwide adopted a new set of diagnostic codes for the first time since 1978. The new codes expanded the existing set from 14,000 to 70,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Among the new codes, which are very specific and very wide-ranging, there are some unusual ailments and injuries: “activity, knitting and crocheting,” “burns due to water-skis on fire,” “walked into lamppost,” and “struck by orca.”
The International Classification of Diseases, or the ICD-10, is an international system for recording injuries and diseases approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The codes are used by doctors, programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and insurance companies, in part to determine how much a doctor should be paid for treatment. According to the Washington Post, the United States is the only major country that hasn’t switched to the new system since the WHO released it in 1992.
In fact, it was supposed to be adopted in 2011, but was delayed after protests from organisations like the American Medical Association (AMA). “Adopting ICD-10, while it may provide benefits to others in the healthcare system, is unlikely to improve the care physicians provide their patients and [diverts] valuable resources,” the AMA wrote, in a letter to the government.
Yet the ICD-9 didn’t “differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes,” according to The Wall Street Journal, and didn’t even have a specific diagnosis for Ebola. Clearly an update was overdue.
While federal officials contend that the new, more specific codes will allow for better diagnoses and more reliable data, according to the Washington Post, some of the extremely specific codes seem almost absurd. (A Wall Street Journal interactive allows anyone to search the whole database of codes — and even offers some suggestions for finding interesting results like brass instruments, macaw, and spacecraft.)
Though some of the new codes seem amusing, it’s important to remember that these are real injuries that people might suffer. A search for “subway” yields results that are grim and familiar to any city dweller: “intentional self-harm,” “assault by pushing.”
A spokesman for the National Center for Health Statistics spokesman told the Washington Post that the new codes are meant to maintain consistency; not all of them will be used.
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