Why not just skip right to ICD-11?

More than a nagging presage: The United States is on the verge of repeating a past mistake – and to the tune of billions of dollars. That’s right, I’m talking about ICD-10.

The problem is that ICD-10 is a classification system based on 1980’s theories of medicine and technology, meaning it will advance the U.S. a couple decades forward from the 1960’s-inspired ICD-9, but by no means bring our healthcare system into the 21st Century.

While industry associations battle over the code set’s future, and HHS figures out when the new compliance deadline will be, the World Health Organization (WHO) is already moving toward ICD-11, promising a beta in 2014 to be followed by the final version in 2015. Should that slip until 2016, U.S. health entities will still be settling into ICD-10 when ICD-11 arrives – meaning that shortly thereafter, we will be right back where we are now: Behind the times, on the previous ICD incarnation.

Are we repeating our own faulty history?

“That almost assuredly will be the case,” said Chris Chute, MD, DrPH, who spearheads the Mayo Clinic’s bioinformatics division and chairs the WHO’s ICD-11 Revision Steering Group.

Even worse, ICD-11 will be within reasonable grasp. The quagmire that U.S. healthcare providers and payers are in, however, is that by most accounts – even Dr. Chute who professes to be “no ICD-10 proponent” – we are simply too far down the road to turn back now.

So the reasons for spending enormous time and money, rather than holding out for ICD-11, are purely political in nature. Two years of asking, and no rock-solid technical reason for needing to implement ICD-10 en route to ICD-11 has presented itself. Sure, I’ve heard the Windows OS upgrade analogy, and all about the enigmatic “bridge” between the two versions, but neither is convincing or specific.