Medical Malpractice and Medical Coding

According to a recent letter from Johns Hopkins Medicine to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical malpractice needs to be reclassified from a medical coding standpoint. Medical professors and students alike believe that medical error is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Yet if medical malpractice is so prevalent why has it only come up in the past month? Let’s take a look at medical coding and how those codes have failed to classify medical malpractice.

Medical Coding

In the aforementioned letter, physicians and students request the CDC revise the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is a catalog of diseases and injuries owned by the World Health Organization (WHO). Essentially medical providers diagnose a patient, find the appropriate diagnosis code in the ICD, and assign that code to the patient’s medical chart or records so other medical providers know what is being treated. For example, an injury to the eye might have an ICD-9 code of 921.9, which is listed as “eye trauma”.

As recently as October 1, 2015, the CDC released the tenth edition of the ICD catalog known as ICD-10. This catalog has added thousands of new codes to the previous ICD-9 catalog. Due to the numerous codes added, medical providers are now able to get more specific with their diagnoses. However, the new catalog has failed to classify medical malpractice with a diagnosis code leading to many medical errors going unnoticed.

There may be a reason that medical error is not included as an ICD code. Since medical providers are one of the most sued professions in the United States, coding medical malpractice may only invite more litigation against physicians. However, considering medical professors and students at Johns Hopkins went through multiple medical records to show that medical error was indeed a cause of death for many patients, instead of fearing litigation medical providers should instead put funding into medical safety research.

Unfortunately assigning an ICD code to medical error may not fully confirm the number of deaths due to malpractice. There are multiple sources of error that can lead a medical provider to inputting an incorrect diagnosis. From a transcriber not being able to decipher a physician’s notes to a coder being inexperienced – even the medical provider’s attention to detail may cause incorrect diagnoses to make their way into medical records.

Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

Since the ICD-10 catalog has no medical error code, there’s no black and white way to tell if you’ve been subject to a medical error. However, experienced medical malpractice attorneys like The Advocates will be able to tell you if you have a case or not. The Advocates have an added benefit of being available for a free consultation 24/7. Give us a call today to figure out if you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice!