Major Differences Between ICD-9 and ICD-10

Major Differences Between ICD-9 and ICD-10

ICD 10

ICD 10 coding system can seem to be a simple change in the numeric system. To be honest, it differs in a massive manner from the ICD 9 coding system. For a physician this can be a tedious change or leap to a new coding system. On the contrary, you as a physician get benefits that include easy documentation and apt pay for the performance. If you are in the process of implementing ICD 10 codes, then you would have recognized it is not a simple upgrade of the predecessor. Both coding sets differ in the very fundamental structure.


The ICD 9 codes had 3 to 5 digits, while ICD 10 codes have 3 to 7 digits. . ICD 9 codes were only numeric, while ICD 10 codes are alpha numeric. New technologies have evolved in the medical world, and the ICD 9 that has been around for 4 decades couldn’t meet the needs. New coding system enables use of 68000 diagnosis codes and 72000 procedure codes. This surge means capturing the data regarding the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, procedures and risk factors become easy. This also helps in sharing of knowledge among the world countries in a standardized manner.

Bigger and better:

ICD 10 is bigger. Calling this coding system bigger can be underestimation, as it is massive.  Opposing to the ICD 9 which has 13,000 codes, ICD 10 has 68000 codes, which means the latter is 19 times bigger in terms of procedure codes. In case of diagnosis codes, the ICD 10 coding system is 5 times bigger compared with the ICD 9ICD 10 on the other hand, has measures to keep including the diseases and treatment methods, whenever they keep emerging.  The character length is 3 to 7, which allows room for this advantage.


ICD 10 codes are more specific. This is a major advantage of ICD 10 over ICD 9 codes. Being specific ICD 10 codes helps in identifying the etiology, severity, anatomic site, and encounter with ease. This means, with a single code, it is possible to identify all about the diagnosis, procedure and the outcomes.

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ICD 9 had no room for combination codes, which only meant when multiple procedures are performed, codes are to be used separately. With ICD 10 things are easy to be put precisely. Even complex medical procedures can be mentioned precisely. Standardization of the codes means that the meaning remains same across the code set. For instance, now it is easier to code diabetes mellitus that is linked to neuropathy.

As ICD 10 conversion is for sure a tedious process in the first few years, it also has to be understood that diligence and meticulous medical billing can only help in processing of claims. Any claim without ICD 10 codes gets rejected by the payers, which include Medicare and Medicaid. However, it also has to be understood that when ICD 10 codes are used, the denials can be brought down a great deal. This means, the AR days are brought down, and increases revenue for the physician.

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