It is coming: ICD-11 released

June 27, 2018 / By Rebecca Caux-Harry

Any Harry Potter fans out there? I recall a wedding scene in one of the last movies, when a disembodied voice whispers “They are coming, they are coming.” The wedding guests panic, scream and begin vanishing. The scene is total chaos. This particular scene came to mind as I read an article about the World Health Organization (WHO) releasing ICD-11. I’ll pause here for dramatic effect.

Yes, that’s right. We all knew it was out there. Some pundits thought that we had waited so long to implement ICD-10 that we might as well skip over it and move right to ICD-11. October 1, 2015, the U.S. ICD-10 implementation date, wasn’t that long ago, and some coders are still smarting from the pain of changing coding systems. Many aren’t even coding any more. But for those of us that remain, we’ve got another hurdle ahead of us…at some unnamed date in the future.

You can find information about our future code set here on the website of the World Health Organization. The code set will be presented to the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by member countries. The earliest the code set could be implemented is January 1, 2022. This time gaps allows countries the ability to review and make their modifications to the code set prior to implementation. The question in my mind is: How long will the United States take to finalize our code set and implement? Since transition to ICD-10 wasn’t that long ago, many of us remember the delays. In fact, the WHO members adopted the ICD-10 code set in 1994, but the United States didn’t implement our clinical modification until 2015. That’s a 21-year gap between adoption and implementation. Let’s hope the delay won’t be as long or as intimidating this time around. 

There are some major differences between ICD-10 and ICD-11 including the coding scheme, meaning how the codes are structured.  ICD-11 changes the 3-character category codes (the characters to the left of the decimal) to four with an alpha-character in the second position and number always in the third position. The first character of any code will correlate to the chapter number. For chapters 1-9, the first character of the code will mirror the chapter number, for chapters 10-27, the first character is a letter. So all codes in a single chapter will always begin with the same character.    

There are multiple other changes, however; if the clinical modification takes only half the time that ICD-10 took to implement, we’re looking at a decade of preparation time. So, go to the WHO website, look around, maybe even bookmark it, but I’m going to wait a while before spending much more time on learning about ICD-11.

Rebecca Caux-Harry, CPC, is the CodeRyte product specialist for cardiology with 3M Health Information Systems.

Concerned about coder productivity?