What Is ICD (aka The International Classification of Diseases)?

The ICD (International Classification of Diseases) holds substantial importance because it offers valuable insights and benefits to global health care. Let’s delve deeper into the significance and advantages of ICD in improving patient care worldwide.

A crucial player in the medical sector, the ICD enables more precise diagnoses and treatments. In this article, we’ll answer the question “What is ICD?” and explain its impact on the health care landscape in various parts of the world.

Key Takeaways

  • The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a global standard developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify and code different health conditions and diseases.
  • With its great contribution to the healthcare industry, it’s continuously maintained by the World Health Organization and improves with each revision.
  • ICD provides reliable data for health trends, forms public health policy, aids in accurate diagnosis, and assists in efficient treatment and illness management.
  • ICD codes consist of alphanumeric characters organized into chapters based on disease categories. They are used for various purposes, such as tracking trends of diseases, determining treatment plans, and researching disease risk factors.
  • Benefits of using ICD include standardization, effective communication, better diagnosis and treatment, improved health insurance access, and better medical research.
what is icd

Definition Of International Classification of Diseases

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global standard to classify various diseases and other health conditions. It comprises a standard language that describes and records health-related cases and diseases.

The main function of the ICD is to classify and code different health conditions and diseases through a standardized system. With its great contribution to the healthcare industry, it’s continuously maintained by the World Health Organization.

On top of that, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) acts as a kind of “super language” for the medical industry. Diseases may be described and recorded using this method. 

There are several reasons why the ICD is so vital in the medical field. First, it facilitates the collection of reliable and accurate health data, which is essential for spotting health trends, keeping tabs on illness patterns, and forming public health policy.

In addition, the ICD is a helpful tool for physicians and other medical personnel. Doing so helps the correct diagnosis and provides efficient treatment and illness management opportunities.

The best part is that the ICD undergoes continuous development and revision to keep up with the evolving nature of medicine and healthcare. Its latest version, the ICD-11, already delivers a lot of updates, such as:

  • Improved alignment with the clinical practice
  • Improved emphasis on patient safety
  • Improved data quality

The ICD plays a more significant role than ever in the healthcare industry. It’s like having a reliable compass to help you find the proper diagnosis, leading to better illness management and treatment options.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a crucial resource for healthcare planners since it not only aids in diagnosis but also sheds light on public health policy by giving a universal global nomenclature to the disease names.

History of ICD

The International Classification of Diseases started during the mid-19th century. This was when different nations started developing their own systems to classify and record diseases.

In the early 20th century, the World Health Organization realized the need for a standardized system. Through this realization, WHO developed a global classification system.

It was the year 1948 when WHO developed ICD’s first version. Only a few diseases and other health-related conditions were recorded during that time.

As time passes, many updates and revisions have been implemented to keep up with the advancements in the medical and healthcare industry. 

But the latest version, the ICD-11, was published by WHO in 2018, along with many improvements and updates!

Suffice it to say the latest version of the ICD brought about a remarkable shift towards a more patient-centered approach. As a result, there is more of a focus on holistic treatment, in which the patient’s experience and viewpoint play a central role.

ICD-11 also contains more comprehensive codes that target mental disorders. Furthermore, new chapters connected to sexual health and traditional medicine were also included.

The development of the ICD wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration and teamwork of various researchers and healthcare professionals worldwide. Today, the ICD continues to create a highly positive impact in the healthcare industry.

Understanding ICD Codes

As mentioned, the ICD has several codes to classify diseases. Each code set will correspond to a certain condition or disease and be used to properly determine, monitor and treat the disease.

Accurately classify and diagnose diseases

ICD codes consist of alphanumeric characters. They are organized into various chapters based on the disease categories.

The codes are used in the healthcare industry in so many ways, such as:

  • Accurately classify and diagnose diseases to determine the best treatment and management program
  • Effectively track trends and patterns of diseases for policy development and public health monitoring purposes
  • For health insurance purposes

Moreover, these codes can also be used for research. They can help identify the trends connected to mortality rates, complications of diseases and sequelae, and disease prevalence.

Indeed, ICD codes are a crucial tool in healthcare, helping doctors diagnose and manage diseases, provide the best treatment possible, and monitor patients’ health thoroughly. But their benefits don’t stop there – these codes also allow researchers to delve deeper into understanding the causes, risk factors, and treatments of various illnesses. 

ICD codes are a game-changer in the medical field, improving patient care and driving the search for new and better disease identification characterization and treatments.

On that note, here are some examples of the commonly used codes in the ICD:

  • ICD-10-CM Code I10 – Essential Primary Hypertension

This is used to identify patients with high blood pressure without any underlying medical conditions.

  • ICD-10-CM Code E11.9 – Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Without Complications

This code is used to identify those having Type-2 diabetes but who aren’t suffering from any complications from the disease.

  • ICD-10-CM Code J44.1 – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with Acute Exacerbation

This code is used for patients with COPD in acute exacerbation.

  • ICD-10-CM Code S42.001A – Fracture of the Right Clavicle, Initial Encounter for Closed Fracture

Patients who sustained a closed fracture of the right clavicle for the first time will be categorized with this code.

  • ICD-10-CM Code F32.9 – Major depressive disorder, single episode, unspecified

For patients with significant depression experiencing a single episode that hasn’t been specified as mild, moderate, or severe depression, this code is used.

The ICD has thousands of codes, and the above are just five. Note that codes depend on the patient’s diagnosis, signs and symptoms, and even medical history.

Benefits of Using ICD

Now, the benefits of ICD go far beyond what we’ve mentioned. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of this important tool in the healthcare industry.

How International Classification of Diseases Codes Are Used in Healthcare

1. Standardization

To ensure consistency in reporting and high accuracy in diagnosing the disease, the ICD offers a standardized system for coding and classifying diseases and other health-related conditions.

2. Effective Communication

Through the ICD codes, researchers, public health officials, and healthcare providers will have minimal to zero obstacles in terms of communication about diseases. This benefit also applies even when they’re located in different parts of the world!

3. Better Diagnosis & Treatment

The accuracy in diagnosing and identifying diseases has been better than ever with the ICD codes. It has helped a lot of doctors and other healthcare providers.

4. Improvement in Health Insurance

Through the ICD codes, insurance companies can now assess and even manage risk more accurately. This can help achieve fair and more efficient healthcare cost access.

5. Better Medical Research

ICD codes are also used to research the latest trends connected to the prevalence of diseases, healthcare utilization, and morbidity mortality rates. Researchers can more efficiently study different diseases’ causes, risk factors, and treatments through these codes.


Q: What is the basic of ICD?

A: The International Classification of Diseases or ICD is a system composed of medical classifications to code and categorize diagnoses and procedures. Its basic role is to give a standardized and universal language for communication purposes between organizations and healthcare providers worldwide.

Q: How is the ICD used to diagnose?

A: Healthcare providers such as doctors use the ICD to assign a standard code on a patient’s diagnosis, symptoms, and even procedures needed. The coding process involves determining the code found in the ICD manual. This will be based on the patient’s medical history, diagnostic results, physical examination, and other studies.

In using the ICD, the doctor must first assess the patient. Once the diagnosis is determined, the doctor selects the appropriate code corresponding to the diagnosis. This code will be encoded to the patient’s medical record and used for billing and reimbursement purposes.

Q: What is the purpose of ICD?

A: The main purpose of the ICD is to provide a standardized language to achieve effective communication between organizations and healthcare professionals from around the world.

Specifically, the role of the ICD is to achieve the following goals:

  • Standardize codes connected to diagnosis and procedure
  • Effective communication
  • Improve patient care
  • Support public health monitoring and research

Q: How many ICD codes are there?

A: The latest version, the ICD-11 has over 55,000 codes. However, it’s important to know that not all codes are necessarily used by all countries or healthcare organizations.

Some codes are more commonly used in specific areas, which depend on the priorities and specific needs of the healthcare organization. There are also codes that are only reserved for research and not in a clinical setting.

Ending Thoughts

What is ICD? The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) has become integral to the global health care landscape and pivotal in disease nomenclature classification, diagnosis, and treatment. 

As we’ve seen, the ICD’s continual evolution has made it an essential tool for health care professionals worldwide, helping them to deliver patient-centered care that is accurate, effective, and efficient.

The ICD’s impact extends far beyond the health care industry, with its ability to inform public health policy and contribute to global health initiatives. The ICD’s continued development and implementation will be vital in achieving our shared goal of creating healthier, more equitable global societies.

As technology and medical science continue to advance, the ICD will evolve every time and undoubtedly remain a critical component of modern healthcare, ensuring that patients receive the highest standard of care and support.