The 30-year-old system of medical coding is heading for an update. The new system, known as ICD-10, would dramatically increase the number of codes used to define various ailments and procedures. The number of codes would be increased ten-fold to 155,000. For example angioplasty today has just one code but the new system will have 1,170 coded descriptions that pinpoint such factors as the location and the device involved for each patient for doctors to choose from each time. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association of insurers predicts billing errors are likely to rise between 10% and 25% in the first year which means patients are going to be billed incorrectly much more often.
All of this is necessary, if painful, progress to facilitate the switch to electronic records and universal information in health care. We'll all have to wait and see if it's really worth the time, expense and hassle.