US Adopts New Codes Describing Deaths, Injuries

The U.S. is adopting a new list that could help organize mortality data and standardize ailment descriptions.

US Adopts New Codes Describing Deaths, Injuries
Colby Stopa / CC BY 2.0

The U.S. is getting a new list of ways to describe getting hurt or killed. 

And the list includes some potentially useful distinctions for animal-related injuries. Like W56.11XA. That's the code for being bitten by a sea lion for the first time. W56.12XA is code for being struck by a sea lion. If a sea lion hurts you in some other way, that gets a different code, and we hope you feel better soon. 

It's called the ICD-10, the International Classification of Diseases. As of Oct. 1, the U.S. will join much of the rest of the world in using it to code medical issues. The classifications help organize mortality data, standardize the way the health care industry refers to a particular ailment, and helps medical providers send billing reports to insurance companies. (Video via American Academy of Professional Coders)

The list is controlled by the World Health Organization, which endorsed ICD-10 in the '90s. An even newer update is set for release in 2018. (Video via World Health Organization)

The U.S. is updating its current version and adapting the codes with the World Health Organization's permission.

Some have criticized the move for its costliness and effect on private practices. 

"There's an increasing pressure on physicians to leave small practices and join either large groups or to go into hospital employment situations. This is one of those things that, I think, is going to help accelerate the end of private practice as we used to know it," Dr. Andrew Kleinman told CNBC.

The CDC says the changes improve classifications by just making more of them, making it possible to combine symptoms and get more specific. (Video via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Say you're in a horse-drawn carriage and you get in an accident. The "occupant of animal-drawn vehicle injured in collision with fixed or stationary object, initial encounter" code could be useful.

Say you're prone to these types of incidents. You might need another code: "Occupant of animal-drawn vehicle injured in collision with fixed or stationary object, subsequent encounter"

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association have been preparing for the switch to the new system, but some doctors still say the move might slow down billing. (Video via American Medical Association)