What’s the Main Difference Between ICD-9 and ICD-10?

There’s been much buzz about the new ICD-10 medical coding system — and you’ll be hearing a lot more about it between now and the Oct. 1, 2014, implementation date.

So what are the real differences between it and ICD-9?  In an interview with TMA’s Associate Vice President for Practice Management Services Peggy Pringle, Denny Flint, president of Complete Practice Resources, explains that structurally the two codes sets are not all that different. ICD-9 codes have three to five numeric digits, while ICD-10 has three to seven alphanumeric digits. The switch last year to HIPAA 5010 transaction standards for electronic claims paved the way for practices and payers to be able to accommodate the extra digits.


What sets ICD-10 apart from ICD-9 is specificity, i.e., more codes — a lot more codes — that convey more detail than the old codes. Payers will expect physicians to bill using these more specific codes. That means doctors will have to “write more stuff” in the medical record to support the codes. You won’t have to memorize thousands of new codes; you will need to learn what documentation elements are relevant to the codes you use most frequently in your practice.

For example, watch the video to learn why going from two codes under ICD-9 for fracture of the patella to 480 codes under ICD-10 for the same diagnosis is not as daunting as it sounds! This is one of 11 short videos in TMA’s ICD-10 Video Vault.

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Published April 23, 2013 

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Last Updated On

February 06, 2015

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