Most of us come in contact with medical coding at some point in our lives – whether it is as physicians, medical billers, or patients. When we do, it can be helpful to know the specific purpose of each different coding system. Let’s take a look at some of the more common medical coding standards: ICD, CPT, LOINC, and SNOMED CT.
ICD – International Classification of Disease
The International Classification of Disease (ICD) is a widely recognized international system for recording diagnoses. It is developed, monitored, and copyrighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). Applied to any diagnosis, symptom, or cause of death, ICD consists of alphanumeric codes that follow an international standard, making sure that the diagnosis will be interpreted in the same way by every medical professional both in the U.S. and internationally.
The current version of ICD used in the U.S. is known as ICD-9, though it’s in the process of being replaced by ICD-10. Rather than simply being an updated version of ICD-9, ICD-10 is a more comprehensive and complex set of codes designed to address some of the issues of ICD-9. For example, ICD-10 codes are longer than ICD-9 codes, reducing the risk of running out of possible available codes in the future. They are also more detailed, registering finding like laterality (which side of the patient a symptom appears on), an option that has been previously absent in ICD-9.
ICD-10 is scheduled to replace ICD-9 in the U.S. starting October 1, 2014.
CPT – Current Procedural Terminology
Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) is a U.S. standard for coding medical procedures, maintained and copyrighted by the American Medical Association (AMA). Similar to ICD coding, CPT is used to standardize medical communication across the board – but where ICD-9 and ICD-10 focus on the diagnosis, CPT instead identifies the services provided, and are used by insurance companies to determine how much physicians will be paid for their services.