What is a Diagnosis Code? - Definition & Uses

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Altered Mental Status: Definition, Causes & Diagnosis

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Diagnosis Coding Background
  • 1:19 Diagnosis Code Definition
  • 2:58 The ICD Code Uses
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed Audio mode
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel is a Nurse Practitioner with experience working as a high school teacher, skin surgery center, and as a family NP.

When you think of lifesaving medical care, groundbreaking scientific research and critical legislation writing, you don't think about the one subject that links them all: medical coding. In this lesson, learn the vital importance of diagnosis codes.

Diagnosis Coding Background

At some point, we have all gotten a glimpse of a medically based television show. You know the ones where you see incredibly good-looking men and women in scrubs running down a hospital's hallway. While this makes for gripping television, it completely omits a critical part of a healthcare provider's job.

Paperwork. It's a less stimulating but equally important part of a provider's job. Everyone in the medical community, from nurse's aide to cardiac surgeon, must deal with documentation. This is true in the United States and hundreds of other countries.

As you might imagine, there's a lot of information that needs to be recorded by millions of medical professionals all over the world. In an effort to streamline and unify information, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) coding system.

This coding system has been in place for over 60 years and is updated at regular intervals. The first ICD released by the WHO in 1948 was the ICD-6. In 2015, they released the ICD-10, which is currently in use today. But what exactly is the ICD?

Diagnosis Code Definition

The ICD is comprised of thousands and thousands of diagnosis codes. A diagnosis code is a combination of letters and/or numbers assigned to a particular diagnosis, symptom, or procedure.

For example, let's say Cheryl comes into the doctor's office complaining of pain when urinating. The healthcare provider performs a urinalysis and discovers several abnormal findings that indicate an infection. The provider concludes she has a urinary tract infection (UTI). On the check-out slip, the provider will reference several codes:

  1. N39.0 - which stands for a urinary tract infection, and
  2. R82.90 - which stands for unspecified abnormal findings in urine

As you can probably guess for the above examples, these codes can get very specific. Since there are thousands of diagnoses that can be given depending on the patient's problem, there are thousands of codes in the ICD manual. The current ICD manual is over one thousand pages long and weighs almost eight pounds.

Furthermore, there are codes for when no diagnosis is found, such as Z00.129, which represents a well child examination. There are codes for when a diagnosis cannot be made but a symptom is identified, such as R06.02, which represents shortness of breath. There are also codes for when a procedure is performed, such as Z01.10, which represents a hearing test with normal results.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it now

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 220 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account
Support