How doctors are at the mercy of ICD coding

What’s the difference between ICD codes 401 and 401.0 for hypertension?

Plenty, as Dr. Rob points out. It can mean the difference of whether the physician is paid for the visit or not. He points out more inane examples, such as a positive rapid strep test that gets paid when diagnosed as “pharyngitis,” but not when it’s coded as “strep throat.”

Coding is an important aspect of medicine that isn’t taught well during residency training. It took me about 2 years to learn the ropes, and I admit, I’m still not clear about some coding rules. There is an entire profession dedicated to coding that physicians are expected to just pick up while on the job.

And imagine, the coding morass is about to become exponentially worse with ICD-10, the next iteration that expands the number of the codes five-fold.

If you’re looking for a job, the medical coding business is going to be a hot field going forward.

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