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November 21, 2013

“Struck by Orca”: An Illustrated Guide to ICD-10

You might enjoy the new ICD-10 illustrated guide, “Struck by Orca,” which pokes fun at many of the codes used to describe a number of medical ailments, situations and more. The book includes over 60 visual interpretations of some favorite ICD-10 codes created by health care professionals, artists and entrepreneurs, such as “Z62.891 Sibling rivalry” and the code that inspired the title of the book, “W56.22xA Struck by orca, initial encounter.”

The old version of the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-9, was felt to be too general by many, and in response, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) came up with version 10. European countries began implementing the new version years ago, but the U.S. has stalled their adoption of ICD-10 because the vast number of new codes added to describe medical issues—some downright silly—will inevitably cause a myriad of issues when it comes to identification of diseases/ailments, diagnosis, causes of injury, the substance of a doctor visit, medical billing, public health surveillance, the list goes on and on. Despite the reluctance of the U.S. to adopt the new version, ICD-10 does add value, providing more extensive data on medical conditions and procedures. The yin and yang of medical coding schemes is the tradeoff between knowing more versus costing more to know more. Very crude codes are easy to use but don’t tell you much.

Now that the U.S. is implementing ICD-10 in October 2014, we will see many funny and not-so-funny side effects. I wonder if they code death by being eaten by a crocodile.

David A. Ross, ScD

President/CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, former director of PHII