If you’re a proponent of the old “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” mentality, you might be a little reluctant to buy into all of this ICD-10 business. After all, you use ICD-9 now, and that seems to be working just fine. So why rock the boat?

Well, there’s another old saying that goes something like, "You don’t know what you’re missing until you reach out and touch it." In this case, those still clinging to ICD-9 are completely overlooking the benefits of the new code set — things like improved interoperability, data-sharing, outcomes, and ultimately improved healthcare.

There’s no shortage of drawbacks to ICD-9. Chief among them: It's 34 years old. Take a moment and think about the healthcare landscape 34 years ago. (Hint: People could still smoke in hospitals. Not a good sign.)

In addition to being old and outdated, ICD-9:

  • Isn’t detailed enough to describe patient diagnoses and modern medical services and procedures
  • Uses antiquated terminology
  • Produces incorrect, limited patient data (cue the auditors)

So, what about ICD-10 makes it so much better than ICD-9? For starters, it has way more diagnosis codes — about 68,000 to ICD-9's 13,000 — and in this case, more is definitely better. Why? Because with more codes, medical providers can more accurately document clinical information, including patient diagnoses.

And, as CMS points out, that leads to:

  • Greater opportunity for evidence-based practice
  • Better insight for optimizing grouping and reimbursement processes
  • Less burden on clinicians to provide detailed supporting documentation

ICD-10 also provides much-needed updates to medical terminology and disease classification, as well as codes that allow for comparison of mortality and morbidity data. In case you haven’t noticed, "better data" is pretty much the battle cry of ICD-10, and justifiably so.

In addition to the data benefits I've already covered, the uberspecific code set will allow medical professionals to better:

  • Evaluate patient care
  • Support research initiatives
  • Construct payment systems
  • Process claims
  • Make clinical decisions
  • Observe public health trends
  • Uncover fraud

Sure, the transition will be tough. No one's arguing with that. But, to continue with the quotable cliche theme of this post, "No pain, no gain." It’s our responsibility to propel the healthcare industry forward, and ICD-10 is a very important step in that process. So, stop clinging to ICD-9 — it belongs in the past, along with eight-tracks and leisure suits — and start embracing the future.