To the Editor:
Kent Moore, author of “ICD-9 Coding: Every Digit Counts” [October 2000, page 16], must be commended for providing a quick refresher on ICD-9 coding and urging physicians to provide fourth- and fifth-digit codes when required.
I would like to add that reimbursement is just one reason for endorsing complete coding. Another equally important reason is the ability to use patient diagnostic records for research purposes – research that may form the backbone of preventive measures for certain health conditions. For example, one cannot accomplish a retrospective study of burns by degree of burn using hospital records unless discharge ICD-9 codes are specified to the fourth and fifth digits. The fourth digit describes the percentage of body surface area affected and the fifth digit describes the percentage of body surface with a third-degree or full skin thickness burn.
Indeed, as Moore pointed out, coding should be done with as much specificity as possible.