The circumstances leading to people’s visits to hospitals and doctors’ offices are as unique as the people themselves. If you were to try to imagine all of the possible situations that could result in a visit — both commonplace and unusual — you might doubt that healthcare settings could rely on pre-created codes for diagnoses that weren’t so general as to be useless.
Before you get too far in that line of thought, I suggest you scroll through the list of ICD-10-CM codes.
Used to bridge the difficulty of constantly creating unique codes for every new medical case alongside the need for diagnoses that reflect the variety within each case, the ICD-10-CM — also known as the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition, Clinical Modification — codes are an important tool used by healthcare professionals to identify, record, and report diagnoses. Developed and owned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the lengthy list includes more than 68,000 possible diagnoses.
The list is useful for making payment and reimbursement systems more efficient, helping determine patient outcomes and healthcare provider performance, and providing insights into population health trends. The FY2019 ICD-10-CM Code changes, released in June, will be in effect from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019.
Does ICD-10 Really Cover Everything?
When reviewing the list of ICD-10-CM codes, you’ll see that the list takes a surprising amount of detail into account, even acknowledging the number of times any specific incident occurred to lead to a particular visit, as well as whether a person’s injuries are the lasting effects of a former diagnosis. Terms like “initial encounter,” “subsequent encounter,” and “sequela” are used for this work. Code descriptions themselves are also deeply specific, for example:
15 Unusual ICD-10 Codes
In order to provide healthcare providers with the most accurate codes for any contingency, the ICD-10-CM list sometimes seems, perhaps, to anticipate the rather far-fetched, or at least fairly unlikely. Some of those less obvious codes are particularly quirky. Here are 15 examples of some of the most unusual ICD-10 codes, and a fervent wish that no one ever has to use them.
1. W5621XA Bitten by Orca, Initial Encounter
There are 36 ICD-10 codes dealing with injuries from marine mammals, as opposed to just 18 for injuries caused by sharks and other fish. Those cute dolphins, seals, and whales are apparently hiding plenty of hospital and doctors’ office-causing visits in them.
2. X52XXXA Prolonged Stay in Weightless Environment, Initial Encounter
While not exactly common, a prolonged stay in a weightless environment is known to cause various effects. Since the ICD-10 values space-faring people as much as land-living people, elite astronauts are also accounted for here.
3. V9540XA Unspecified Spacecraft Accident Injuring Occupant, Initial Encounter
To prove that it is possible to be incredibly specific while also acknowledging that some potentialities simply can’t be pinned down, other uncommon space-related incidents are also covered. According to Listverse, there are a lot of strange things that can go wrong in space, from the obvious things like malfunctioning spacesuits, to the seemingly unimportant things like what happens after someone tosses an alcohol pad onto a hotplate.
4. X3743XA Tidal Wave Due to Landslide, Initial Encounter
As opposed to injuries related to tidal waves caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or storms.
5. W370XXA Explosion of Bicycle Tire, Initial Encounter
An option for whether the explosion takes place when pumping a tire for a quick ride in the afternoon, or while riding down a mountain trail.
6. W2201XA Walked into Wall, Initial Encounter
Hey, it happens. There are also codes for walking into furniture, waking into a lamppost, falling from a tree, and accidentally being trapped in a car trunk.
7. V9733XA Sucked into Jet Engine, Initial Encounter
According to an Aviation forum, this rare, but possible accident occurs usually when there is a miscommunication or disregard for safety procedures.
9. V9431XA Injury to Rider of (Inflatable) Recreational Watercraft Being Pulled Behind Other Watercraft, Initial Encounter
Rather specific, this one, related to water-sports and inflatable water fun, and perhaps a good cautionary tale to keep in mind.
10. V80721A Occupant of Animal-Drawn Vehicle Injured in Collision with Other Animal-Drawn Vehicle, Initial Encounter
While animal-drawn vehicle collisions on the open road can seem reasonable, this code actually refers primarily to athletes involved in harness racing.
11. V0101XA Pedestrian on Roller-Skates Injured in Collision with Pedal Cycle in Nontraffic Accident, Initial Encounter
Codes like this serve as a useful reminder that helmets were a brilliant invention. Use them and make kids use them, too.
12. V00152A Heelies Colliding with Stationary Object, Initial Encounter
Other heelies-related accidents are classified separately; what heelies inventors were thinking to invent something with such a penchant for accident is to be determined. Helmets may be a reasonable solution here as well.
13. T63823A Toxic Effect of Contact with Venomous Toad, Assault, Initial Encounter
Apparently some folks like to attack venomous toads for fun. This situation is coded differently, and surely handled by authorities differently, than contact with a venomous toad that was not human initiated.
14. V981XXA Accident to, on or Involving Land-Yacht, Initial Encounter
All types of vehicle accidents have their own codes, including those involving cable-cars, ice yachts, ski lifts, and hot air balloons.
15. X981XXA Assault by Hot Tap Water, Initial Encounter
There isn’t a code for assault with boiling water, and this code is distinct from “assault by hot fluids,” so it either means tap water that’s been heated, or people assaulting others with water straight from the tap.
On the Outside Chance Something Isn’t Included…
There are 68,000 of these codes in the encompassed by the ICD-10-CM. And yet, with all the imagination and far-fetched planning that went into making that extensive of a list, as technology, health risks, and people’s behaviors evolve, the options the list contains also will continue to grow and change. CMS.gov continuously accepts requests for code changes from people in both the public and private sectors to make sure healthcare providers have a list that’s complete for every diagnosis, accident or injury, no matter how unique those diagnoses, accidents and injuries turn out to be.
The ICD-10 CM diagnosis codes are a very powerful data set for teams who are marketing and selling products or services to doctors and hospitals. With a far more granular and accurate description of the patient’s clinical status, MedTech commercial teams can create precise targeting criteria to identify their ideal healthcare customers.
Learn how other sales and marketing teams are using ICD-10-CM codes to define and segment opportunities for their medical technologies and healthcare products.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Bernadette Wilson of B Wilson Marketing Communications is an experienced journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer, specializing in content for technology companies.