Macaws, parrots, and other fun facts about ICD-10

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale

You don't have to be very close to the heart of ICD-10 to know how complex, controversial and confounding it can be. That's why I wasn't surprised when listening to an MGMA advisor describe some of the more puzzling facets of ICD-10... right down to the tropical birds.

Robert Tennant, Senior Policy Advisor for the Medical Group Management Association, spoke to a room of my colleagues this week on misconceptions and other pain points associated with ICD-10.

Among his list of grievances: The widely-disseminated idea that "every other developed nation is using ICD-10 already" (Tennant pointed out that most nations use a regionalized subset, like Canada's ICD-10-CA, containing a much smaller library of codes); and the fact that, among the tens of thousands of codes included in the generic ICD-10, there are distinctions for "wounds inflicted by macaws" and "wounds inflicted by parrots."  An important distinction, or a ludicrously extraneous detail?  I don't know -- I'm not a doctor (nor am I an ornithologist).

What I do know is that Tennant represents and works with physicians.  His constituents will experience ICD-10 firsthand, through implementation, daily usage, and eventually, phasing out.  And what I also know is that without physician confidence early in the process, major technical overhauls are practically impossible.

Tennant's main message was that the scope of the conversion is extraordinary, and the timetable is not viable for most organizations. So while it's not surprising to me that he and many physicians are frustrated, annoyed and far from convinced of the importance in the conversion, I have to trust that there's a lot of value in Tennant's perspective. 

Whether or not that means I'm in better shape to be treated for a macaw-inflicted wound under ICD-9 or ICD-10 remains to be seen. I wonder how they code that under ICD-10-CA?


Chip Means is New Media Manager for MedTech Media, which publishes ICD-10Watch.