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World Health Organization Releases ICD-11

Analysis  |  By Amanda Norris  
   March 04, 2022

Although the U.S. timeline for implementing ICD-11 is still up in the air, the new code set is now officially in effect for the reporting of causes of illness, death, and more.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially released ICD-11, the newest code set that WHO member countries will be implementing worldwide. According to the WHO press release, 35 countries have already started reporting with ICD-11.

According to the WHO, compared with previous versions, ICD-11 is entirely digital with a new user-friendly format and multilingual capabilities that reduce the chance of error.

"A key principle in this revision was to simplify the coding and provide users with all necessary electronic tooling—this will allow healthcare professionals to more easily and completely record conditions," Robert Jakob, team lead of classifications terminologies and standards at the WHO, said in a press release.

According to the organization, ICD-11 was adopted at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 and at the time, member states committed to start using it for mortality and morbidity reporting in 2022.

Since ICD-11's release for testing in 2016, the WHO says it has considered 900 proposals for input from early adopter countries and scientific groups. According to the WHO, key updates for ICD-11 include:

  • Clinical descriptions and diagnostic requirements for mental health
  • Grade and stage coding for cancers
  • Rare disease coding
  • Support for perinatal and maternal coding

Among other updates, ICD-11 improves the clarity of terms for the general public and facilitates the coding of important details such as the spread of a cancer or the exact site and type of a fracture, the WHO said.

ICD-11 also includes updated diagnostic recommendations for mental health conditions and digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates.

While it may seem like revenue cycle leaders just recovered from the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, the implementation of ICD-11 in the U.S. is likely to be far in the future.

Last year, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics made recommendations regarding the transition to ICD-11 and stressed the immediate need for more research and communication.

Due to setbacks in research caused by COVID-19, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics says its delayed action has only increased the urgency to commence research, strategic communications, and outreach.

According to the committee, the following two conditions should be met before an ICD-11 implementation in the U.S.:

  • HHS should conduct research to evaluate the impact of different approaches to the transition and implementation of ICD-11
  • HHS should conduct outreach and communicate regularly to the U.S. healthcare industry about the ICD transition

"We put these [recommendations] forward now to avert significant avoidable transition cost and burden to the US health care system, including public health, like those experienced in the recent transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10," the committee said.

According to an ICD-11 fact sheet from the WHO, countries who have not used a previous version of ICD and have a simple information system may need one to two years to completely transition to ICD-11 reporting.

Conversely, systems where versions of ICD are already in use, such as in the U.S. with ICD-10, four to five years may be required to fully transition to ICD-11.

Amanda Norris is the Associate Content Manager of Finance, Payer, Revenue Cycle, and Strategy for HealthLeaders.

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