The ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus is an example of the way transitioning to ICD-10 can benefit the ability of public health officials to respond to global pandemics, according to an executive at 3M Health Information Systems.

In a recent blog post, Ann Chenoweth, the company's director of industry relations, said the lack of specificity in classifying Ebola in ICD-9 can hamper quick coordination of action.

"When looking at ICD-9 today, Ebola is often classified to 078.89, Other specified diseases due to viruses," Chenoweth wrote, "but I have also seen Ebola classified to 065.8, Other specified arthropod-borne hemorrhagic fever. This lack of specificity in the ICD-9 code description makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clearly identify Ebola patients in the data. In turn, the ability for our public health organizations to quickly and proactively identify emerging epidemics can be severely compromised."

Ebola, she said, is just one of "countless" examples where the lack of specificity in ICD-9 codes negatively impacts effective monitoring and tracking of diseases from a public health perspective.

"ICD-10, however, provides one specific code for the Ebola virus – A98.4. This illustrates the positive impact the additional specificity of ICD-10 can have on the ability to capture public health diseases, perform research, measure outcomes, and evaluate the efficacy of treatments," Chenoweth said. "ICD-10 will also facilitate the sharing of data internationally. Because the U.S. is the only industrialized nation still using ICD-9, sharing data with countries using ICD-10 is difficult to accomplish."

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