There's a Code for That!

The World Health Organization has a new medical coding system

Myra Saturen,


What's a medical biller to do when a patient's diagnosis is: struck by an orca, bitten by a sheep, prolonged stay in weightless environment, accident while knitting, or problem in relationship with neighbor?  There must be codes for these!  Well, yes, there are, thanks to the new World Health Organization system of medical coding, ICD-10.   

Although these descriptions may represent unusual diagnoses, much more common ones will also be easier to classify with greater specificity, thanks to the new system; for example, the code specifies which wrist was fractured and whether it is an open or closed wound. 

The previous system, ICD-10, adopted in 1979, contained 3,824 codes; ICD-10 has 14,025.  The new rubric contains codes for thousands of diseases and procedures that hadn't been identified or even existed when the last version was created.  The new system allows for more precise diagnoses, better tracking of health outcomes and improved monitoring worldwide. 

Northampton Community College (NCC) is in the process of upgrading three of its programs, and the new ICD-10 system will be incorporated into all of them.  Beginning in spring 2016, the new billing code system will be phased in and the old one phased out.  

The programs to be upgraded are: medical administrative assistant to health care office coordinator (associate degree), health care office specialist from medical office specialist (certificate) and health care billing and coding from medical billing (diploma). 

A health care biller handles all the paperwork relating to patient records in health care facilities such as clinics, hospitals, physicians' offices, and nursing homes. They work with insurance companies to process medical bills incurred by patients and ensure that the respective health care providers are compensated for all services rendered.

The hands-on coursework at NCC is taught by experts in the field and will make students comfortable using computerized office equipment, including industry-standard medical billing software. At the completion of the program, graduates will understand coding concepts, methodologies, and the process of medical/health service reimbursement.

The health care administration field continues to grow as does the demand for well-trained office specialists who understand coding diagnoses and health care services. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, administrative health care jobs are projected to increase much faster than average.