Toeing the Line


When a brand-new, exhaustively itemized medical coding system debuts in October (planned long before "Obamacare," by the way), doctors will find, for example, dozens of separate numbers to describe issues with a patient's big toe (left one, right one, with or without nail damage, blisters, abrasions, critter bites, fractures, dislocations, sprains, amputation, etc.). Among the odder listed "origins of injury," reported The New York Times in December, are codes for "burning water skis" and injuries incurred in opera houses, or while knitting, or as a manifestation of sibling rivalry. The current system has about 17,000 codes; the new one totals 68,000 for diagnoses plus 87,000 for procedures. o

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